Some 100 new COVID-19 cases detected in cleared dorms, 7,000 workers quarantined

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·3-min read
Workers wearing protective mask assemble for a briefing at a construction site of a quick-build dormitory on 9 June, 2020 in Singapore. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Workers wearing protective mask assemble for a briefing at a construction site of a quick-build dormitory on 9 June, 2020 in Singapore. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — About 100 COVID-19 cases have been detected in foreign worker dormitories that were given the all-clear, resulting in some 7,000 workers being quarantined, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (18 August).

These cases – some of whom have resumed work – were detected through routine testing conducted bi-weekly for workers living in dorms as well as those who work in construction/production sites and the construction, marine, and process sectors, said the ministries in the joint statement.

Over 100,000 workers have started on their biweekly routine tests to date, while seven in 10 employers have logged on and used an online swab registration system set up to schedule such tests.

“We have taken timely actions to contain and isolate the COVID-19 positive cases. We have also taken aggressive actions to contain, trace, and isolate the close contacts. To date, over 60 per cent of cases have been closed,” the statement added.

Out of some 7,000 workers quarantined from the new infection cases, less than two per cent were reported to be infected with COVID-19 and make up part of the 100 new cases.

The quarantined cases are “being managed according to strict protocols and reinforced with more centralised quarantine facilities made available through the completion of dormitory clearance”, the ministries said.

The new infected cases in cleared dorms and decant sites are a reminder of the need for vigilance, they added.

“As we gather more real-life data, we will be better able to assess the impact of safe distancing measures (SDM) and segregation measures. This will help us assess patterns in the spread of infections, and review the extent of quarantine required to contain a detected case,” the ministries said.

Authorities here have completed the testing of all workers in the dorms, with around 18,600 of them currently serving out their quarantine period, including 800 who were announced by the MOH last Wednesday to be newly quarantined after the discovery of a COVID-19 case among them in a cleared purpose-built dorm block.

Both ministries said that authorities are taking “a measured approach” to tackle such situations. It includes conveying immediate close contacts of the infected worker to serve a 14-day quarantine at a dedicated quarantine facility and testing the remaining residents.

“We have quarantined the whole block in the first instance while the assessment is being made as a precautionary measure. We will rescind the quarantine subsequently for workers who are assessed to be not at risk,” the ministries said.

“While this approach could affect up to a few hundred migrant workers for each case, it ensures that we contain the detected case and minimise spreading that could end up affecting thousands others,” they added.

Other measures taken to prevent a second wave of infections in the cleared dorms include segregating workers staying in the dorms by the type of industry that they work in. Sector agencies will also work closely with the employers to assess the risk at the workplaces and put in place safety timeouts if necessary, with aggressive testing operations conducted.

The MOH confirmed another 100 COVID-19 cases in Singapore on Tuesday, taking the country’s total to 55,938. Of the tally, some 95 per cent are foreign workers living in dorms.

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