Since the outbreak of new COVID-19 clusters among foreign workers’ dormitories in Singapore garnered attention on he questionable living environments they were provided for, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said that these foreign workers will be relocated to vacant blocks at Bukit Merah.
About 21 vacant housing board blocks in Bukit Merah are being refurbished to cater to healthy foreign workers who are employed under essential services. These workers will begin moving into the three-room flats at Redhill Close progressively as the refurbishing works are completed in the coming weeks, according to The Straits Times.
The Ministry claimed that there is an urgent need to house healthy foreign workers who are employed under essential services away from the foreign worker dormitories. This is to ensure that the workers can resume delivering essential services such as cleaning and facilities management.
Following the spread of COVID-19 among foreign workers in their dormitories, an inter-agency task force has been set up to minimise disruptions of essential services by having the workers housed separately.
In a notice put up by the Sam Tan, the Minister of State for Social and Family Development stated that the relocation of the foreign workers is part of the national fight against COVID-19 and it is in support of the circuit breaker measures to reduce the risk of further community spread of the coronavirus.
Mr Tan had also mentioned that the foreign worker dormitories have not been spared from COVID-19, which was why they are “taking every effort” to contain the spread of the disease in these dormitories. He added that by relocating these foreign workers, it will keep them safe from COVID-19, which will in turn “keep us safe” when they are working.
“Many of these workers stay in dormitories. These dormitories have not been spared from COVID-19. While we are taking every effort to contain the spread of the disease in these dormitories, the Government is taking a precautionary step to house healthy essential workers separately. This will keep them safe from the disease, which will in turn keep us safe when they are working in our midst,” wrote Mr Tan.
Mr Tan assured the residents that the workers will remain in their flats except to travel to work using company transport or to purchase essentials. Apparently, the police and Certis officers will be deployed to maintain order at these blocks.
He ended the notice by urging the residents to welcome the foreign workers during this difficult period.
“Let’s show our support to these workers by welcoming them during this difficult period.”
As reported by Today, the eight blocks housing the foreign workers were barricaded with security guards at the entrance. Policemen were also seen walking the grounds. The workers told Today that they moved from the Acacia Lodge at Bukit Batok and they were to be isolated for two weeks. They seem to be satisfied with the food they were provided, as well as the cleanliness of the environment.
However, the residents at Redhill Close were somewhat concerned that a group of foreigners had moved into their area. Jenny Mak pointed out that this area has a relatively large elderly population who might be more vulnerable to contract COVID-19 and serious complications may have a higher chance to develop.
An elderly resident, Mr Woo, said that he would have a peace of mind if the foreign workers who moved to Redhill Close can be proven COVID-19 negative. The 82-year-old retiree suggested that the Singapore General Hospital could provide medical proof to confirm that these workers are free from the coronavirus.
Looking back at how COVID-19 spreads like rapid fire among foreign worker dormitories, the first-ever recorded case of the coronavirus involving a foreign worker was announced way back on 9 February. This worker is a Bangladeshi man who worked at the Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site.
Considering that it had been two months since the first report of foreign worker confirmed with COVID-19 and no precautionary measures had been done until the relocation to Bukit Merah, the spread of the coronavirus within foreign worker dormitories could have been prevented if actions were taken earlier.