Singaporeans should not be “overly alarmed” by the continuous rise in reported COVID-19 cases in the country, which is due to the comprehensive testing among migrant workers, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in a Facebook post on Thursday (14 May).
“The large number of reported cases among our migrant workers today reflects our current approach to aggressive testing,” Ms Teo asserted.
She then noted, “Few countries have tested their migrant populations extensively; far fewer have undertaken to test all their migrant workers, as Singapore has.”
As the restrictions under the circuit breaker measures will be gradually lifted in June, there will be a suite of measures to get ready for the recovery phase, according to Ms Teo.
Citing the announcement by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (12 May) about systematic testing for all 300,000 migrant workers, she commended the effort, saying that this “extensive testing approach” will make sure these workers are free from infection before resuming their work.
“To me, it is better to test, so that we know what we’re dealing with and can then take the right actions,” Ms Teo wrote in her post.
She remarked, “As we move into the recovery phase, we must try and help our businesses to restart operations safely, and help our workers go back to work safely.”
Ms Teo went on to point out that many Singaporeans would therefore understand that systematic testing allows the Government to take better care of the workers, as well as to protect the businesses and the broader community.
Highlighting the importance of response to alleviate the risk of COVID-19, she said, “The robust testing strategy would have to go hand in hand with the health monitoring and surveillance measures we have started to put in place.”
“This will allow us, on an ongoing basis, to detect infections in workers who might have mild or no symptoms, and help them get treatment earlier,” Ms Teo added.
She also mentioned in her post that tomorrow (15 May), the Inter-agency Joint Taskforce will outline the “Safe Living and Safe Working” measures focusing on migrant workers.
As of Wednesday noon (13 May), Singapore has reported a total of 25,346 cases of COVID-19 infections with 21 death cases in the country.
Of the total cases, 23,008 cases are from the migrant workers’ dormitories, which accounted for 90 per cent of the total cases.
Govt to increase the testing rate; currently around 3,000 migrant workers living in dormitories are tested for the virus on a daily basis
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at a virtual press conference on Tuesday (12 May) noted that about 3,000 of these tests are being done each day in migrant worker dormitories.
Mr Wong then said that the testing will be ramped up in the next few weeks so as to make sure the workers are infection-free before resuming work after the circuit breaker period ends on 1 June.
He also explained that the daily number of new cases will remain high as active testing efforts are still ongoing, including testing workers who appear to be asymptomatic.
However, the situation is improving, Mr Wong assured.
Not only ramping up COVID-19 test rates, the Government is also looking to diversify its sources of COVID-19 testing resources, according to MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
Associate Professor Mak on Tuesday (12 May) said that Singapore’s decision to intensify its testing rate is taking place at a time where many countries around the world are also doing the same.
“There are many countries who are…also ramping up their test capacity at the same time as we are. And we all have a common interest of wanting to test more people within our communities, and therefore there will inevitably be some competition for resources,” he said.
“This is the reason that we want to diversify where we will procure our various test kits and test resources,” he added.
Earlier on 28 April, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed that 21,000 migrant workers living in dormitories have been tested for the virus.
“This means that one in 15 migrant workers in dormitories have been tested,” said the Minister.
Mr Gan also rebutted claims that there has been reduced COVID-19 testing for migrant workers. He remarked, “Our testing capacity for migrant workers is about 3,000 a day. We have not reduced it. Instead, we have been increasing the capacity of testing of our migrant workers. The rate of testing has not slowed.”