Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Secretary-General of Progress Singapore Party (PSP) posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday evening about the gazetting of the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite Toh Guan, voicing his concerns over the health and welfare of the migrant workers housed in the two dormitories.
On Sunday (6 April), the Singapore government gazetted two dormitories — around 20,000 migrant workers in total — as isolation areas on Sun (5 Apr) following a spike in COVID-19 cases among migrant workers housed in the said dorms. This meant that
Dr Tan said, “In congested living quarters, the spread can spike very quickly. 12-20 men are housed closely in each room. Workers share toilets and eating areas.”
He then asked how will the migrant workers break the chain of infection if they cannot practice social distancing and observe Covid-fighting hygiene habits like frequent hand washing.
Dr Tan, who is a doctor who have practised over 50 years, suggested the following measures in his post.
- Test all workers in these dorms.
- Separate the sick from the rest. Isolate the positive cases in the dormitory for observation, medical checks and refer to hospital if necessary. He also suggest that the dormitories to be specially disinfected as the virus is known to survive on surfaces for long period.
- Send those tested negative to another holding location. This is to cut the chain of infection and give them peace of mind. In addition to the Singapore Expo, Dr Tan suggested the use of sports stadiums and erect temporary living quarters on the open fields. There are reasonable washing facilities at these stadiums. With increased space, they can also practice social distancing and good hygiene like hand washing. During this period, let them observe a form of Stay Home Notice in our stadiums. Stand -alone stadiums are isolated from other people and it is a cleaner way to monitor movements and control the spread.
Dr Tan said that he is suggesting this because Singapore must look after these 20,000 foreign workers and assure them that the country can look after them.
“It is the decent thing to do.” said Dr Tan and noted that Singapore must act quickly and decisively to stop the disease from spreading amongst them.
“We must do what is right.”
On Monday (6 April), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released a statement which highlights the efforts the ministry has made in ensuring the needs and well-being of migrant workers in the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite Toh Guan Dormitory are being well taken care of.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told the media that the decision to gazette the dormitories was part of two separate strategies for tackling local transmission, each for dormitories and the community at large.
However, MOM’s statement doesn’t tally with reports coming from residents themselves who, after just one day of isolation, already reported overcrowding and pest infestation.
MOM said in it statement, “MOM officers have also been working round-the-clock with the two dormitory operators and partners to prioritise the well-being of workers who remain healthy,” adding that this includes ensuring a timely supply of food and increasing hygiene management now that workers have to stay in the dorms all day.
An earlier series of videos from the migrant workers showed the dormitory residents swarming on the ground floor for floor and water. On Tuesday evening, TOC in a visit down to the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, saw that police officers and working staff, were calling for the migrant workers to stay in their room and not allowed to loiter around the dormitory.
Furthermore, an employer also told TOC that he was not allowed to pass food to his employees housed in the dormitory. According to him, the food was not sufficient for the workers and that his workers told him to buy food for them.
Under the Infectious Disease Act, the Director and Deputy Director of Medical Services may prohibit or restrict the movement within the isolation area of any person or class of persons and goods.