COVID-19: Singapore to build care, recovery facilities in some dorms for infected foreign workers

More than 40 dorms across Singapore house foreign workers, mostly from South Asia
More than 40 dorms across Singapore house foreign workers, mostly from South Asia

SINGAPORE – Foreign workers who test positive for the coronavirus would not need to leave their dormitories soon for their recovery process.

The government plans to build community care and recovery facilities within some dorms in Phase 3 of its strategy to curb the COVID-19 outbreak among foreign workers.

In Phase 1, the government had provided for the immediate needs of the workers and address their basic concerns. These included establishing effective safe distancing measures and improving basic conditions.

Phase 2 focused on the deployment of medical facilities and support to the workers.

In a virtual media briefing on Friday (1 May), Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Aubeck Kam said that in Phase 3, onsite community care and recovery facilities will be built within the compound the most affected dorms.

“Like the centralised CCFs (community care facilities), they will house COVID-19 positive patients who are clinically well or display mild symptoms. These workers can be transferred to the (onsite) CCFs immediately after the diagnosis, instead of waiting to be transferred to an offsite medical facility,” Kam said.

Similarly, the onsite CRSs (community recovery facilities) will take in patients who no longer need close medical monitoring.

Accommodations for recovered workers

“We will designate specific blocks within each dormitory to be blocked for recovered workers,” Kam said.

These blocks will be disinfected and house recovered workers and other discharged patients. Dormitory operators may need to relocate some residents who are now occupying the rooms in these blocks.

For the less affected dorms, there will be a combination of approaches including “aggressive swabbing” to contain the infections. There will also be isolation protocols to enable the dormitories to recover faster.

The multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 continues to create additional housing capacity for the healthy and recovered workers, including floating accommodations, cruise ships and sports halls, and Kam said more new dorms to house these workers will be built.

He added, “These are part of our plans to enable the dormitory population to eventually be able to resume work safely.”

When asked how long it would take before the affected migrant workers would be allowed to come back to work, Kam said that it would be “some weeks yet”. Noting that the priority is to ensure that the workers are free of infection before they can resume their duties, he added that employers would also be required to take additional precautions, post-circuit breaker.

“We should not expect that resumption means resuming to the same way in which things were done. Additional precautions have to be taken. The next few weeks, I think you'll see many employers making those preparations, even as they plan for their workers to come back. We will indeed do it in a sector by sector way.”

Latest COVID-19 cases

The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a preliminary 932 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore as of Friday (1 May) noon, bringing the total to 17,101.

The vast majority of new cases in recent weeks were foreign workers who live in dorms.

More than 50 clusters linked to such dorms have been identified thus far, including Singapore’s largest cluster linked to S11 Dormitory@Punggol, followed by Tuas View Dormitory and Sungei Tengah Lodge.

The three are among the 25 dorms that have been gazetted as isolation areas. Some 300,000 foreign workers live in dorms here in Singapore.

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