Singapore has recorded about 2,866 imported cases of COVID-19 between 1 January this year to 11 June, of which arrivals from India and Indonesia make up about half of the cases – 1,064 cases and 551 cases, respectively.
The city-state has entered into a series of lockdown measures starting from 16 May, after a number of clusters, including the Changi Airport clusters, emerged in the community.
This had led many Singaporeans to question why the Government did not shut Singapore’s borders earlier to bring down the number of imported COVID-19 cases, especially after the mutant virus variant B1617 ran amok in India.
In response to the public, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued a statement on 18 May saying that Singapore has “completely stopped entry of all from South Asia” since 2 May.
“At the same time, businesses have been appealing for more workers to be allowed to enter Singapore to address manpower shortages,” it noted, shifting the blame to businesses.
MOM added that the outflow of migrant workers has exceeded the inflow over the past year; and as a result of border restrictions to mitigate importation risks, Singapore has not been able to adequately replace those who have left.
“Border restrictions will impact Singaporeans’ daily lives and this will be felt more keenly in the coming weeks and months,” the Ministry said in its statement.
“Our restrictions on inflow of workers from higher-risk countries will also likely persist for some time, until the situation improves.”
Meanwhile, TOC’s tabulated figures revealed that the majority of imported cases in Singapore came from India with 1,064 total cases (37.1%), followed by Indonesia with 551 cases (19.2%).
TOC retrieved data of imported cases between 1 January 2021 to 11 June, classifying them into nine categories – work pass holders, work permit holders, dependant pass holders, special pass holders, student pass holders, short-term visitors, long-term visitors, Singapore citizens (SCs), and permanent residents (PRs) – according to their travel history.
Bangladesh came in third with 291 imported cases, followed by the Philippines and Myanmar with 175 cases and 121 cases, respectively.
In addition, there have been 114 imported cases from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and 110 cases from Malaysia during the same period.
Minister Lawrence Wong said S’pore didn’t close border to India due to need for migrant workers
Speaking at a press briefing in May, Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19, explained that Singapore did not close its border to India earlier as the country requires migrant workers to “build our homes”.
Mr Wong said, “We’ve already become very tight, to the point that the backlog of applications has been growing… Many projects have been suffering from delays, as all of us know.
“More recently when we restricted the flow of workers from India and the entire South Indian continent… it means considerable delays will be added to all of our projects.”
He added, “Some of our housing projects may now be delayed by up to a year or more. So it does come at a considerable cost to Singaporeans.”
Though Mr Wong assured that migrant workers who travel into Singapore are isolated, he conceded that there will be leaks into the community from time to time.
The Minister also asserted that there cannot be sole reliance on border measures.
Majority of work permit holders are actually from Indonesia
Work permit holders indeed made up the largest group of arrivals in Singapore between 1 January to 11 June this year, with 1,225 work permit holders in total.
In a dialogue session at the Singapore Perspectives Conference in January, Mr Wong pointed out that the two largest groups entering Singapore are construction workers and foreign domestic workers.
“Those are the two largest sources of travellers coming to Singapore, and the daily numbers have not increased, they’ve been about the same in recent times,” he said.
Mr Wong continued, “Why have the numbers gone up? It’s simply because the prevalence rate, the incidence rate of the disease is much higher. Now, the virus is raging in countries everywhere.”
Based on the tabulated figures, nearly half of the work permit holders came from Indonesia, with 409 work permit holders, which predominantly are domestic workers.
Next is India, with 273 work permit holders, followed by Bangladesh, with 271 work permit holders.
Arrivals from India seem to dominate other categories
Now, even though the majority of infected work permit holders came from Indonesia – as well as special pass holders, with 23 recorded from Indonesia – it appears that all the other categories are mostly originated from India.
Singapore had about 323 infected work pass holders reported between 1 January to 11 June this year. Among these cases, 117 of them came from India, 45 cases came from Nepal, and 42 from the UAE.
Similarly, out of 216 dependant pass holders during that period, 85 of them were from India, 46 from Nepal, and 33 from the UAE.
The majority of student pass holders also came from India, with 67 cases – out of 100 total student pass holders reported in the same period – while Indonesia came in second with six student pass holders reported.
Out of 211 short-term visitors reported from 1 January to 11 June, 80 of them travelled from India, and 47 came from Indonesia.
India also had the highest number of long-term visitors entering Singapore during that period, with 30 cases – out of 47 long-term visitors in total.
Most of the infected SCs and PRs in the same period were also originated from India, with 127 cases – out of 283 SCs in total – and 284 cases – out of 387 PRs in total – respectively.