The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) have issued an apology for only informing a migrant worker in Toh Guan Dormitory that he had tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks after he was swabbed.
In a joint statement on Sunday (19 July), the ministries chalked up the incident to “administrative error”, however noted that the mistake did not impact the “appropriateness of the clearance strategy” for the dormitory or the treatment of the workers there.
The MOH and MOM were responding to queries after two Facebook posts were made by employer Ms Tsjin Chandra Dolly and company HR personnel Ms Kelly Soh who revealed that a worker, who was recently tested positive for the coronavirus, was not immediately transferred to an isolation facility. Instead, he was placed in the same room as the other healthy 11 workers by the dormitory operator.
Ms Tsjin has said in her Facebook post on 15 July that the swab test for the worker was conducted on 22 June but the MOH had only informed her that the result was positive on 12 July. The MOH had said in the confirmation message that the worker should immediately inform the dorm operator.
However, both Ms Tsjin and Ms Soh noted that the MOH said it would need 24 hours to make relocation arrangements for the migrant worker to be taken to an isolation centre. However, after two days, nothing had been done and the worker continued to stay in the same room as his 11 roommates.
The ministries said in their statement that the dormitory has been under isolation since 6 April.
They also explained that survey tests were carried out on a sample of workers across the dormitory on June to assess the extent of the spread of the virus and to develop an appropriate strategy for clearing the dorm.
It was noted that the worker in question, along with his 11 roommates, were selected for the survey testing. Their swabs were pooled with several others and tested as a group, which came back positive.
The MOH and MOM said this means that there was a high likelihood that all 12 workers would have been infected since they lived in the same room for the last three months, and given the high rate of incidence in the dormitory.
The administrative error occurred in the “conduct of the pool test” where it was found that the test contained only his swab, making it an individual test and no a pool test. He was subsequently informed that he had been tested positive for COVID-19.
“We have since reached out to the employer to explain the situation,” said the ministries.
They added that this doesn’t affect the overall procedure of clearing the dorms which also involves a series of serology and individual polymerise chain reaction tests as well as pool-tests.
They also emphasised that all 12 workers were cared for in their room and monitored by medical staff throughout the testing period and that they were well and did not exhibit any symptoms of acute respiratory infection.
The ministries added that the worker has since recovered from the virus while seven of his roommates have also recovered from old infections. Three were transferred to a community care facility after being recently infected while one remains uninfected and is serving out a final isolation period at a government quarantine facility.
The ministries said that all residents of the Toh Guan Dormitory has been tested by the second week of July and that the dorm is expected to be cleared by the end of this month.
To date, there are 45,150 confirmed COVID-19 cases in migrant worker dormitories across the country according to data from the MOH. Toh Guan Dormitory specifically has a total of 821 cases.