Netizens condemn Josephine Teo for saying that migrant workers dormitories are now shifting out of ‘crisis mode’

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post on Saturday (15 August) that migrant workers dormitories in Singapore are now shifting out of ‘crisis mode’ as all dormitories have been cleared of the deadly COVID-19.

She said that the dorms are now moving in a more sustainable model, which focuses on three main phases.

“With all dormitories now cleared of COVID-19, we are shifting out of ‘crisis mode’ to a more sustainable model where we focus on these three key phases: Safe Re-opening, Safe Transition and Safe Nation,” Ms Teo wrote.

She added, “In the initial phase, we focused on saving lives during the circuit breaker by meeting short-term needs. As we gradually reopen, we must now channel our efforts into protecting livelihoods and guarding against new infections.”

As of 16 August, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country stands at 55,747 cases. Out of these infections, the vast majority of cases are among migrant workers residing in dormitories.

Following months of battle with the highly contagious virus, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced last week (11 August) that all dormitories have been declared cleared of COVID-19, except for 17 standalone blocks in six Purpose-Built Dormitories acting as quarantine facilities.

This means that migrant workers will be able to return back to work once dormitory operators, employers and workers have completed necessary preparations to do so in a safe manner.

In her post, Ms Teo stated that the Inter-agency Taskforce (ITF), which comprises of nearly 3,000 officer including about 1,000 MOMers, worked really hard to “care for migrant workers” in the last few months as Singapore battle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My heartfelt thanks to the ITF officers and other stake holders including employers and dormitory operators for working round the clock to ensure the safety and well-being of our migrant workers. There is much more work to be done. Let us continue to stay vigilant,” Ms Teo stressed.

New cases detected at virus-free dorms

Despite MOM clearing all dormitories of COVID-19, new cases emerged in these dorms last week, and the authorities said they were monitoring the situation in order to manage the risk of new outbreaks.

In a joint statement released by MOM, the Building and Construction Authority, the Economic Development Board and the Health Promotion Board last Tuesday, it stated that fresh infections have been detected at previously cleared dormitories.

The statement read that safeguards have been implemented to ensure that the immense efforts put in place over at the dorms in the last four months will not go to waste.

“With more daily movements in and out of the dormitories, it is even more important for everyone to remain vigilant to guard against new infections,” the joint statement said.

Netizens react to the news

Upon reading Ms Teo’s latest post, many netizens slammed her for stating that the dorms are “out of crisis mode” given that the number of COVID-19 cases are still on the rise. One user named Dave Phua said that man countries like Australia, South Korea and France are seeing more infections resurfacing, and therefore, it is important for Singapore to “not let our guards down”.

Online users penned their comments in the Facebook pages of Mothership and The Straits Times. 

Other users criticised Ms Teo for not doing a good job in controlling the spread of the virus in the dormitories. Calling her “incompetent”, they said that a lot of money was spent trying to fix Ms Teo’s “mess”, and this could have been avoided if she had done her job properly in the first place.

As such, they want her to take the responsibility and apologise to migrant workers and Singaporeans for making such a big error in handling infections in the dormitories. One user added that she wants Ms Teo to be out of the ministerial post.

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