COVID-19 testing at migrant worker dorms may take up to September: Gan Kim Yong

SINGAPORE - APRIL 29:  A healthcare worker wearing the personal protective equipment attends to a foreign worker at a dormitory on April 29, 2020 in Singapore. Singapore is now battling to control a huge outbreak in the coronavirus (COVID-19) local transmission cases among the migrant workers.  (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker attends to a foreign worker at a dormitory in Singapore. (PHOTO: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Proactive COVID-19 testing and screening of labour workers in dormitories may take up to September before they are completed, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Gan was responding to a supplementary question in Parliament on Thursday (4 June) by Murali Pillai, Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok.

Pillai had asked how long it will take to complete the screening of migrant workers in the dormitories, and whether it will impact the timelines of Phase 2 or Phase 3 of Singapore’s reopening of the economy.

In his reply, Gan said that the proactive screening will take some time, as the government has to do it systematically and carefully.

“(The screenings) may take up to August, or even September,” he said in Parliament.

“But as we do so, when the workers have been cleared through this process, they will then be able to start work. Therefore we want to make sure that those who are able to start work are safe in the community, and that will allow us to continue the process of opening our economy.

“If we remain safe in Phase 1, we will then be able to proceed to Phase 2, hopefully before the end of the month.”

About 40,000 migrant workers cleared of infection so far

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo had said in a media conference on 1 June that some 40,000 migrant workers who live in dormitories have been cleared of the COVID-19 infection to date.

This includes 12,000 essential workers who were moved out of dormitories into short-term accommodation.

Another 8,000 who were living in the dormitories have either tested negative or tested positive but have since recovered and been discharged. These workers are now living in dormitories with fellow workers who have also been cleared of the virus. The remaining 20,000 workers have recovered and have been rehoused at other temporary sites.

There are about 400,000 foreign workers who are housed in various dormitories in Singapore.

As of 1 June, the Ministry of Health has conducted 408,495 swab tests, of which 264,393 were done on unique individuals. This translates to around 71,700 swabs conducted per 1 million total population, and about 46,400 unique individuals swabbed per 1 million total population.

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