COVID-19: 2 foreign worker dorms gazetted as social isolation areas, almost 20,000 to be under quarantine

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor

SINGAPORE – In light of the increase in cases within foreign worker dormitories in recent days, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has gazetted two of the dorms, S11 and Westlite, as social isolation areas.

Figures up till noon on Saturday (4 April) showed that S11 Dormitory @ Punggol (2 Seletar North Link) had a total of 41 cases of COVID-19 infection while Westlite had 18.

Other dorms that are clusters include Sungei Tengah Lodge (500 Old Choa Chu Kang Road), Toh Guan Dormitory (19A Toh Guan Road East) and Cochrane Lodge II (49 Admiralty Road West).

On Sunday, Singapore also confirmed 120 new cases of COVID-19, with 116 local transmissions.

In addition, further safe distancing measures will be implemented at other dormitories.

At a multi-ministry taskforce virtual press briefing on Sunday (5 April), Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Deputy Secretary (Workplaces) Jason Chen explained that this means that residents will have to stay in their existing rooms in the dorms for the next 14 days, under a quarantine order.

“We will be providing all three meals to the workers. And we are also distributing goodie bags that contain masks, thermometers, hand sanitisers and snacks to lift the spirits, and they have generally been very cooperative so far,” he said, adding that mood on the ground is “stable”.

This step is required as “at S11, the population is 13,000, and then at Westlite, it is 6,800”, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo. “We want to bring the risk of further spread to the lowest possible level. It means that in order for us to be effective in doing so, we have to take this very major step of requiring both dormitories to be gazetted as isolated areas.”

As for other dormitories, enhanced safe distancing measures include:

  • Housing workers in essential services, who form a “small minority” of all the workers in these dormitories, separately by moving them out. The government is actively converting more spaces, such as vacant HDB blocks, to house these workers.

  • Taking further precautions to ensure that interactions between workers on different floors are minimised.

  • Thinning out the number of people within the dormitories. This will be done progressively for all the large dormitories.

  • Relocating any worker who is unwell, regardless whether they are suspected of having COVID-19.

Minister Teo said that the period of quarantine will be treated as paid medical leave. “We will work with the employers to ensure that quarantined workers continue to be paid.”

Besides meals, she said, the workers will also get masks, thermometers, hand sanitisers and other essentials. “We know that it is important to them to be able to make remittances, we will facilitate remittance on site.”

Teo added, “MOH has deployed onsite medical support to support the workers residing at both dormitories, if they were to become unwell.”

Taskforce co-chair Lawrence Wong emphasised, “We should be very clear that foreign workers are inherently not of any higher risk compared to locals in Singapore. It's not an issue of, you know, targeting a particular group.”

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