No re-infections found among recent COVID-19 cases in dorms given all-clear – MOH official

SINGAPORE - MAY 28:  A migrant worker stands outside his makeshift dormitory room, fitted with exterior netting, at a stalled construction site on May 28, 2020 in Singapore. Singapore is set to ease the partial lockdown measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic after 1 June in three phases to resume activities safely after it sees a decline in the new infection cases within the community. Building contractors will be allowed to gradually resume operations from June 2, with  safe distancing measures in place, such as implementing contract tracing at worksites and avoiding cross deployment of workers.  (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
A migrant worker stands outside his makeshift dormitory room, fitted with exterior netting, at a stalled construction site on 28 May, 2020, in Singapore. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — No re-infections were detected among the recent COVID-19 cases found in foreign worker dormitories that were given the all-clear, with the majority of them older infections, said a top health ministry official on Friday (21 August).

Several of these infected workers, about 100 as of Tuesday, had previously been in the dorms but were later placed in quarantine facilities after being exposed to others who were infected, said Ministry of Health (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak at a virtual multi-ministry task force press conference.

They were moved to these facilities before the dorm clearance was completed and were progressively tested nearing the end of their quarantine, he said.

Many of them showed evidence suggesting that they were infected before they were placed in the quarantine facilities, Prof Mak added.

Other cases are picked up during the roster routine testing for foreign workers who are beginning to go back to work, he said.

“We've been looking very carefully also to make sure that we are able to pick up any possible reinfections of cases that may have occurred from recovered cases before. To date, we have not picked up any such case,” Prof Mak added.

Authorities are also continuing to test other workers outside the dorm setting, including those placed in decant facilities early on while Singapore was in the midst of managing the COVID-19 outbreak within the dorms, he said.

Health Minister and taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong noted that the workers in quarantine facilities are those who have been exposed to positive cases and have a high risk of becoming COVID-19 positive patients.

“As we test them when they complete their quarantine, we are likely to pick up a significant number of cases. And that was the last couple of weeks, and we are still in the process of clearing these quarantine workers,” he said.

Over time, while the numbers will come down, there will be new infections and more migrant workers will be quarantined moving forward, Gan noted.

“The quarantine number will stay somewhat at a certain level on an ongoing basis,” he said. “At the same time, we also have to bear in mind that now that the dorms have been cleared, most of the workers will be going back to work, or have already gone back to work.”

With more workers in the workplace and increased interactions between them, the number of COVID-19 cases in such settings will go up correspondingly, Gan stressed.

“Therefore, it is very important for us to re-emphasise the safe management safe distancing measures at workplaces so as to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplaces,” he said, adding that Singapore has to be prepared for a higher number of community cases in the future.

To date, some 95 per cent of Singapore’s total 56,216 COVID-19 cases are foreign workers living in dorms. Around 14,500 of them currently serving out their quarantine period as of Thursday.

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