SINGAPORE — Construction costs in Singapore will increase as authorities impose a new COVID-19 testing regime on workers in the industry, and these will be borne by ‘all of us’, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (15 May).
“So I have no doubt, and as with all regulatory requirements, the principle must be that the company must bear the cost,” said the co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce on the coronavirus, who was addressing a virtual press conference.
“So I have no doubt that it will mean construction costs in Singapore will be higher because of these regulatory requirements. And all of us have to be prepared to pay this higher cost, because we want construction work to be done safely in Singapore from henceforth.”
At a technical briefing before the press conference, Building and Construction Authority (BCA) chief executive Hugh Lim revealed as the construction industry gradually reopens, its workforce would be tested every two weeks.
And while the details of the costs are being worked out with the Ministry of Health, Lim stressed that the cost of the new testing regime should be borne by employers.
Wong was asked to clarify if the government would be sharing the cost of testing with employers. “This will be a new regulatory requirement on top of all the other safe distancing measures that we have put in place, that we are talking about, that contractors will now have to uphold,” said Wong, reiterating Lim’s point.
Most construction work has been suspended since a partial lockdown of the country began on 7 April. Only about five per cent of the construction workforce, or some 20,000 workers, are currently working on a “very small number of critical infrastructure projects and those that have to continue for safety reasons,” said Lim.
Another five per cent of the construction workforce are expected to resume in June, added Lim. These include projects that cannot be left idle for too long due to safety concerns, as well as critical and time-sensitive projects, such as MRT and Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS) tunnelling projects.
On Tuesday, Health Minister and taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong said Singapore aims to ensure that its entire foreign worker population is as free of COVID-19 infection as possible before they are allowed to resume work.
Some 3,000 migrant workers are being tested each day. To date, over 32,000 foreign workers living in dorms here have been tested.
The press conference was held on the same day that the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed a new daily high of 1,164 COVID-19 recoveries and 752 more COVID-19 cases in Singapore.
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