Given that many of the dormitory residents have never been infected with COVID-19 and remain susceptible to the virus, the new infections continue to be detected in the migrant worker dormitories which were declared cleared of COVID-19, said the Second Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng on Wednesday (9 September).
Speaking at the multi-ministry task force press conference, Dr Tan revealed that there have been about 45 new infections detected among the cleared dormitories daily since all the dormitories were declared cleared of COVID-19 on 11 August.
“However, we are prepared for this. We put in place a multi-layered strategy to detect, as well as to contain any new infections very quickly and very decisively,” he noted.
Noting the “key thing is prevention”, Dr Tan mentioned that the “Safe Living, Safe Working and Safe Rest Day” measures are being put in place to limit the intermixing of workers at the dormitories as well as worksites.
“And we also ensure that workers who are unwell, they are isolated quickly and treated, and this helps to prevent the spread and formation of large clusters,” he added.
While responding to the question on whether the cases in the cleared dormitories had slipped through the cracks by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Dr Tan explained that PCR test is a “snapshot” of the status of the migrant worker “at that particular point in time”.
“It’s just that at that particular point in time, in the cycle of the incubation, we may not have picked up the virus because the manifestation of it, the concentration has still not reached that level yet,” he said, as reported in The Straits Times.
As such, Dr Tan stressed that the “key hallmark” of their prevention strategy is the Rostered Routine Testing (RRT), which it will be conducted every 14 days for every dormitory residents and workers in the construction, marine and process (CMP) sectors.
He elaborated, “RRT is a key lever in our detection strategy as it is a comprehensive testing for every single dormitory worker every 14 days and is very definitive in identifying workers who are infected.
“Once these are identified, and if they are found to be positive through our RRT, we quickly contain and isolate them. We ringfence them. We contain the spread by testing and isolating the close contacts. We also carry out very aggressive testing operations within the dorms based on the assessment of the potential risk of spread. These measures have enabled us to quickly isolate new cases in the dormitories as well as contain the spread of virus.”
According to Dr Tan, about 15 per cent of dormitory residents commenced RRT in early of August, however as more workers went through RRT, an increase in new cases was detected around the third week of August.
He revealed that to date, about 90 per cent of workers have been scheduled for RRT and “we expect to hit a hundred percent over the next few weeks”.
Moving on, Dr Tan also addressed the concern about the re-emergence of cases at migrant workers dormitories, saying that more than 200 re-emergent dormitory sites have been successfully contained.
“For the majority of these sites, the number of re-emergent infections has been low, less than 10 each. And the re-emergent infection rate among those who have not been previously infected is low, at about 2 per cent,” he noted.
During the press conference, Dr Tan also highlighted the cooperation of all stakeholders is crucial to minimise the risk of COVID-19 outbreak in the dormitories.
“We need the dorm operators, we need the employers, and we need the migrant workers to work together with us … so that we can provide a safe working and living environment for workers to minimise the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks. This is a huge, a collective effort, I urge all of you to work with us.”
There is still a risk to community, given the interaction at the worksite not only among the migrant workers, and also with fellow S’poreans
Meanwhile Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted that there is still a risk of transmission in the community, given that the interaction is the nature of the worksite and it is not only among the migrant workers, but with fellow Singaporeans working there as well.
“So there will be a risk of transmission and we have also seen a number of Singaporean citizens and PRs who were infected at the worksite related to the CMP sector,” Mr Gan said.
He continued, “What is crucial really is to ensure that in addition to the measures that we have imposed at the dormitories and the worksites, we need to continue to be quite tight in the safe distancing measures in the community.
“So that even if there’s an infection in the community, we can reduce the risk of spread and reduce the risk of a large community cluster from forming,” the Health Minister said.
New COVID-19 clusters were identified at cleared dormitories
Dating back to 11 August, the MOM noted in a statement that all dormitories have been declared cleared of COVID-19, with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in six Purpose-Built Dormitories (PBDs) which serve as quarantine facilities.
“This means that all workers living in dormitories have either recovered or have been tested to be free from the virus, except for 22,500 workers in isolation in Centralised Government Quarantine Facilities and the remaining 17 standalone blocks in PBDs,” said the MOM.
However, on the following day (12 August), Ministry of Health (MOH) released a statement, saying that about 800 migrant workers have been newly quarantined after a COVID-19 case was discovered among them in a cleared dormitory.
It noted that the newly quarantined workers are among about 22,800 workers who are still serving out their quarantine period, though the Inter-agency Taskforce (ITF) has completed the testing of all workers in the dormitories.
As of Sunday (5 September), Singapore has identified new COVID-19 clusters at three additional migrant workers’ dormitories.
These dormitories are Cochrane Lodge 1 at 51 Admiralty Road West, Mandai Lodge 1 at 460 Mandai Road, as well as Tuas South Dormitory at 1 Tuas South Street 12, and the MOM had previously declared these dorms to be cleared of COVID-19.
Other than these dormitories, new clusters that had been identified previously were Sungei Tengah Lodge, Homestay Lodge, Tuas View Dormitory, Changi Lodge II, North Coast Lodge, Toh Guan Dormitory, Cochrane Lodge II, Westlite Toh Guan and Blue Stars Dormitory.