COVID-19: Singapore extends stay-home period of foreign workers

Singapore: Singapore on Friday extended the stay-home period of foreign workers, including Indians, in the construction sector by two weeks until May 18 as the COVID-19 infections among the community continue to rise, constituting majority of the 932 new infections reported in the country.

With the new infections, which include Indian nationals, the total number of cases in the country has reached 17,101, the health ministry said on Friday.

The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, it said.

Five cases are Singapore citizens or permanent residents of foreign origin.

The Manpower Ministry said that the mandatory stay-home notice for work permit and S Pass holders (all foreigners) in the construction sector has been extended by two weeks until May 18.

Earlier, these workers and their dependents were to serve stay-home notices until May 4 which has now been extended until 11.59 pm on May 18.

The ministry said that authorities have been closely monitoring the infections among construction workers living outside purpose-built dormitories, where restrictions on movement remain in force.

The number of infections in this group has continued to rise, and the prevalence remains “noticeably higher” than the general community.

This suggests that “transmission at construction worksites among such workers had occurred before the start of the stay-home notice period,” the ministry said.

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“The cases that are now being observed could have been incubated earlier or may have spread among the workers’ close contacts and house-mates,” Channel News Asia reported citing the ministry.

An extension of the stay-home notice by 14 days to cover another incubation cycle will help to break the cycle of transmission, based on a public health assessment by the health ministry, it added.

“We recognise the impact on affected employers and appreciate their cooperation. Their efforts will help to enable an eventual restart of the sector,” the Manpower Ministry said.

“Thus far, the vast majority of employers have looked after their workers well. We will need them to continue doing so,” the Channel quoted the Manpower Ministry as saying.

Employers are required to make arrangements for the delivery of food or groceries and other daily essentials for the workers. They should also ensure their workers consult a doctor immediately if unwell.

Majority of the COVID-19 infections in the country are those among the migrant workers.

As of Thursday, 13,842 infections out of the 16,169 cases were linked to foreign worker dormitories.

Another 555 cases are work permit holders (foreigners) who do not live in dormitories.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has housed some foreign workers, who have recovered from COVID-19, aboard a cruise ship docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

The first batch of workers boarded the SuperStar Gemini, one of two cruise ships cleared to house these workers temporarily, on Wednesday, the STB said.

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The second ship, the SuperStar Aquarius, has also passed checks by the authorities and is ready to receive the workers. The two ships together can accommodate up to 2,000 foreign workers.

These are part of the government’s efforts to transfer workers to alternative living areas to reduce the spread of the virus within their dormitories, which, according to media reports, were crammed prior to the spread of the deadly disease.

STB said that fresh air is piped into the ship, and no air will be re-circulated between cabins and common areas. The ships also have en-suite toilets and in-cabin dining, as well as Wi-Fi and entertainment in the cabins.

Strict infection control measures and safe distancing measures will be observed at all times. The Marina Bay Cruise Centre has also been equipped with sick bays and an isolation station, the STB said.

Many workers, who are healthy, have been moved out of the tightly packed dormitories to other living quarters, such as military camps and vacant apartments in the public housing estates.

On April 27, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that authorities have an “extensive” plan to house recovered foreign migrant workers, involving new sites.

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