Foreign workers who are healthy will be placed temporarily at unused void decks and multi-storey car parks of different sites by Housing Development Board (HDB)’s contractors.
This was announced by HDB in a Facebook post on Saturday (11 April) as part of the national effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“These are completed structures that are safe and liveable. This will help to improve safe distancing by spreading out our workers, who are today living in workers’ quarters on site,” HDB wrote.
The agency’s post came following a video that has been circulating on social media which showed the poor living conditions of migrant workers at what looked like a car park.
In the video, the person who was taking the video can be heard saying that migrant workers are unhappy with their living space and they are fighting every day. If that’s not all, he also revealed that this makeshift workers quarters only had a bed frame with a stand fan. Based on the video, most of the bed frames did not even have mattress to sleep on.
He added that they are also not furnished with lockers to keep their personal things as well as charging points for their phones.
In the post, HDB said that the newly allocated premises will have all the necessary facilities like toilets, charging points as well as Internet connection.
“The health and safety of everyone is of utmost importance. All premises are checked to ensure that the living condition is airy and comfortable, with conveniences such as toilets, charging points, and wifi provided for all site,” it stated.
It added, “We have also catered meals for the workers according to their dietary requirements.”
Additionally, all workers are also not allowed to visit others at different levels and temperature checks will be done twice a day as part of Singapore’s safe distancing measures.
“The workers will be staying within the site, and only designated workers are allowed to leave the site to purchase essentials from nearby grocery stores,” the agency stressed.
In the past week, there have been some worries about the increase of deadly novel coronavirus cases at overly crammed migrant workers dormitories in Singapore. Due to this, the government has gazetted seven of those dorms with high number of cases as isolation area. This means that the workers are not allowed to leave their dorms for 14 days and meals will be supplied to them to reduce social contact.
On top of that, authorities have also announced plans to house healthy workers in places like military camps, vacant HDB flats as well as floating hotels and have already housed some workers from essential services in such locations.
Manpower Minister responds
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo also took to her Facebook about an hour after HDB’s post to state that the video of the makeshift migrant workers accommodation that went viral on social media was also shared to her. She called the video “disturbing”.
“A number of friends sent me a video with FWs in makeshift accommodation that appears to be multi-story car park. Thank you all for your concern. It was indeed disturbing,” she said.
She said that her ministry and HDB followed up on this matter as fast as they could. Referring to HDB’s post, she said that the agency “explains the steps taken to support the workers at these temporary dorms”, adding that the migrant workers’ well-being is the priority.
“Besides the Interagency Taskforce that’s working round-the-clock to stabilize the situation at purpose-built dorms, a dedicated team will step up inspections at smaller dorms. We already inspect them regularly but with COVID-19, more resources are needed to ensure the workers’ well-being,” she noted.
Mrs Teo also said that her team is stretched to the limit, and requested the people of Singapore to “bear” with them as they’re giving priority to calls by vulnerable individuals first before responding to other queries.
“The MOM team is fighting the battle on many fronts – job security, business viability, wage/leave issues, manpower surplus/excess in different areas, loss of income by self-employed, concerns from employers about domestic workers and vice versa – a long list,” she said.
As such, Mrs Teo revealed that from today onward, a number of ministries and other agencies will come together to “address all the concerns faced by Singaporeans and our foreign workforce.”