Another case of migrant workers not relocated to isolation facility after being tested positive for COVID-19

An employer named Jianxiong James took to his Facebook on Tuesday (21 July) to reveal an incident in which two of his workers were sent to back to their rooms in Toh Guan Dormitory after being tested positive for COVID-19, instead of being moved to an isolation facility.

This is the second time such event has emerged in the span of one week. Last Wednesday, another employer revealed that one of her workers was placed in the same room as other healthy 11 workers by the dormitory operator after being tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus.

Mr James, who is a local SME business owner, said in his post that all his migrant workers have been staying in Toh Guan Dormitory, and have been placed in isolation since April after the virus outbreak started in migrant worker dorms.

The business owner explained that on 15 July, two of his six workers were asked to go for a swab test, and they both got a SMS from the Ministry of Health (MOH) the very next day confirming that they have contracted the deadly virus.

“Both workers head down to the security to report and was asked to go back to their room,” Mr James said.

He added, “I called MOH hotline of 17/07/20 regarding this matter. They were shocked and apologise on the Ministry behalf. They asked for my worker’s name and address and where they have been.”

As such, Mr James asked: “Isn’t all swab test conducted by MOH and they would have the address and name of the workers. Why are they not sure? Where the SMS was issued by them.”

Mr James went on to note that he received a second call from another department in MOH asking the same question, adding that a third called was received an hour later from MOH assuring that his workers will be well taken care off.

If that’s not all, Mr James also revealed that the dorm operator stated that the workers were not placed in an isolation facility because the facility has reached its fully capacity.

“I called the dorm operator and question them why are the workers whom are tested positive not isolate, their reply was, because their isolation facilities are full hence worker(s) were instructed to head back to their rooms.

“On 18/07/20 (1 day late), both workers are being sent to the recovery facilities at BIG BOX but due to them being instructed to head back to their rooms, 1 of my workers is down with fever and is currently being isolated awaiting transport to Changi Expo.”

To make it worse, Mr James said that the dorm operator informed him that MOM has released 500 workers back to the workforce as they have recovered from COVID-19.

As such, the businessman asked: “Then what about those workers that have been tested negative all these while? What if they mix with the general population and contracted COVID again?”

Besides that, the employer also wondered if the Ministries have a standard guidelines or SOP in dealing with the outbreak, given that the workers at the Purpose-Built Dormitories (PBDs) have been on a lockdown for three months now.

“I am also wondering, it has already been 3 mths since PBD’s have been locked down. Is there no standard guidelines or SOP that various Ministries can follow? By pushing positive workers back to their rooms, it will cause unnecessary panic to the workers and as per WHO this virus is highly infectious,” he noted.

Additionally, Mr James also voiced the importance of mental health for these workers. He said that the Ministries have failed to tackle this issue.

“Workers are human being, and most workers that are under my company have worked for more than 5 years and are like family to me and my company. I take serious view in their mental health and well-being,” he expressed.

Mr James went on to point out that the relevant Ministries do not inform employers of their workers’ test results, and this should not be the way.

“As employers, we do not receive any update or test results from anyone beside our worker sending text to us saying they have tested positive for COVID-19.

“In this evolving covid situation, wouldn’t it be in the best interest for the ministries to work closely with the employers?”

He also said that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has started collecting migrant workers’ levies from the employers, even when all the workers are not back to the workforce.

“And MOM (has) started collecting worker’s levies due in JUNE being payable on JULY 50% and then subsequent 100% for the month of JULY being payable in August. How can SMEs survive with perpetually zero in and all out? Even appeal to MOM regarding this issue, my company still fail to receive any replies from them,” he concluded.

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