An additional 42 dorms housing migrant workers in Singapore were declared free from COVID-19 on Tuesday (16 June).
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a statement on Monday said that the 42 dorms comprise the following:
- One Purpose-Built Dormitory;
- 39 Factory-Converted Dormitories; and
- Two Construction Temporary Quarters (CTQ), housing about 4,000 residents.
The 42 dorms take the total number to 132 dormitories and 14 blocks of recovered workers in PBDs that have previously been declared free from COVID-19.
MOM urged employers, dorm operators and migrant workers to make the necessary preparations to complete all the three required steps before the workers can resume work.
The three steps are:
• Dormitory operators must arrange staggered pick-up/drop-off timing with employers;
• Employers must confirm or update the residential addresses of their workers on MOM database; and
• Workers must download the FWMOMCare app to update their health status and report their residence location that matches with employers’ and dormitory operators’ records. Additionally, they are required to download TraceTogether to facilitate contact tracing.
“As of 15 June 2020, 67 dormitories out of 132 have completed these steps and some of the 10,000 residents have resumed working,” said the Ministry.
MOM added that employers, dorm operators and migrant workers must “remain vigilant and ensure that the Safe Working and Safe Living measures are rigorously followed”.
As of Tuesday (16 June), over 38,000 out of nearly 41,000 COVID-19 cases in Singapore are tied to clusters in migrant workers staying in dormitories.
Govt building additional temporary dorms to reduce crowdedness
MOM announced earlier this month that it will build additional temporary dorms to house around 100,000 low-wage migrant workers until the end of this year using empty schools and factory and abandoned property.
“In land-scarce Singapore, it is inevitable that some of the new dorm sites will be quite near residential areas, so all of us must do our part to reject the ‘not in my backyard’ mindset,” said Lawrence Wong, National Development Minister and co-chair of the COVID-19 taskforce.
Migrant workers’ rights groups have previously urged the government to improve the condition of the existing megadorms, which highlight a sharp gap between the tiny nation’s neat public housing and packed migrant workers dorms, built far away from Singapore’s business centres and the nation’s community at large.
“Singaporeans are not used to having migrant workers stay so close to them,” said Alex Au, vice-president of Transient Workers Count Too, adding that such segregation has contributed to the negative stigma surrounding migrant workers.
While Mr Tan appreciated the government’s efforts to provide better facilities for migrant workers, he opined that the Government should have taken steps towards doing so earlier.
Hailed locally and internationally as the “gold standard” for its management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the initial stages, the Singapore government later drew criticism from observers for what many have perceived as taking a “reactive” response to the outbreak — including its dual approach in managing cases among residents and migrant workers living in dormitories — after sharp spikes of new infections were recorded among the latter.
Several migrant workers’ dormitories were gazetted as isolation areas, which has brought to light issues such as overcrowding and the lack of access to food security in such dorms.
Sungei Tengah Lodge, one of the gazetted dorms, has been listed by MOM as among the dormitories “to be cleared in the coming weeks”.
Blocks C and E at Cochrane Lodge 1, and Block 14 at Westlite Toh Guan are among dormitories pending, as they have yet to meet three out of five conditions — namely the three required steps mentioned by MOM above.