All dormitories, including standalone blocks in purpose-built dormitories serving as quarantine or isolation facilities, have been declared cleared of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a press release on Wednesday (19 August).
MOM said that all residents in these standalone blocks have either finished serving out their isolation or quarantines, or have been moved to a different government facility depending on their status.
Last week, it was announced that about 81 per cent of migrant workers in the construction, marine and process sectors have been issued the Green AccessCode which indicates that they can return to work. This has now increased to 86 per cent.
“We expect the recently cleared dormitories to soon complete all the necessary preparations, with an additional 20,000 residents expected to have Green AccessCode,” said the ministry.
“Half of these residents currently have Red AccessCode as their addresses are not updated. Reminders will be sent to dormitory operators and employers to update workers’ addresses accordingly.”
The MOM added that its expects there to always be some workers with a Red AccessCode due to several factors including a worker recently testing positive for COVID-19 and is undergoing treatment or if they were a close contact of a positive case and is under quarantine.
Additionally, workers may be given a Red AccessCode if they are placed in quarantine as a precaution while authorities investigate their possible exposure to a positive case. The same for those who no longer have the TraceTogether app on their mobile devices or if a worker fail to undergo the required rostered routine testing (RRT).
“These occurrences are part of the overall system of ensuring compliance with RRT, and that any cases detected are contained, with contacts traced and the block or level of the dormitory isolated,” said MOM.
The RRT is one of the measures implemented to prevent a second wave of infections in the cleared dormitories. MOM said last week that about 100,000 migrant workers have already started on this biweekly program.
Other measures to curb a possible second wave is grouping migrant workers in dormitories based on the industry they work in, on top of the expected implementation of safe distancing measures and contact tracing of any new case.
Sector agencies will work closely with the employers to assess the risk at the workplaces and put in place safety timeouts if necessary,” the ministry said, adding that “aggressive testing operations” will be carried out if a new cases is detected.
New COVID-19 cases in cleared dorms just a week ago
Curiously, this announcement comes just a week after the MOM, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Economic Development Board (EDB) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) said that there have already been instances where new cases of COVID-19 infections are detected at previously cleared dormitories.
“The Interagency Task Force (ITF) is actively monitoring the dormitories to manage the risk of new outbreaks,” said the authorities in a joint statement on 11 August.
The authorities said that precautions are put in places such as requiring workers to self-monitor their health via the FWMOMCare App twice a day. Additionally, the authorities will monitor closely the number of migrant workers who report sick at the medical posts as well as the wastewater from higher risk dormitories for traces of the COVID-19 infection.
“If our monitoring picks up potential infections among migrant workers, the ITF will quickly isolate and quarantine all at-risk workers within the block that was housing the infected worker as a precautionary measure,” the statement noted.
Authorities cautioned, “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.”