Yesterday (21 Apr), the number of foreign workers infected with COVID-19 continues to increase. Singapore reported 1,111 new cases yesterday, taking the national total to 9,125. Of the 1,111 new cases, 1,050 were migrant workers living in dormitories with 33 residing outside dormitories. As of yesterday, 28 out of 43 migrant worker dormitories now have active COVID-19 clusters.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told the media that measures to contain the virus had been taken at dormitories since early January, by asking operators to raise the standard of hygiene, and sharing information with workers on how to protect themselves against the virus.
Later, safe distancing measures were implemented at the dormitories, like closing non-essential facilities such as TV rooms, she added.
Cost was not why migrant workers were not moved out of their dormitories earlier, she explained. Rather, this could be done only in the context of wider measures to break the transmission, such as work stoppages, closing shopping areas and preventing people from socializing.
“We are now asking the workers not to go to work. So from the workers’ standpoint, this is a question of livelihood,” she said.
“Now to say that we could have done this much earlier, I think, really does not reflect an understanding of the workers’ own concerns. It would not have been so easy to tell the workers: Please don’t go to work because we want to protect you.”
Meanwhile, a new government ruling now mandates that all foreign workers staying at dormitories will now have to stop work and stop moving in and out of the dormitories until 4 May. Migrant workers at dormitories have all been locked down and daily movement of workers in and out of dormitories will not be allowed.
Presumably, Mrs Teo is now in a position to better understand the workers’ concerns.