Migrant workers stay in on weekends to help fight coronavirus

Mr Ahmed Amad (right) and his brother Mr Ahmed Jabed have not met up in the past few weeks as they believe it is socially responsible to stay at their respective in and not go out.
Mr Ahmed Amad (right) and his brother Mr Ahmed Jabed have not met up in the past few weeks as they believe it is socially responsible to stay at their respective in and not go out.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MR AHMED AMAD

Since his younger brother came to Singapore seven months ago, Bangladeshi national Ahmed Amad, 31, has met him every weekend for meals or to go shopping at Mustafa Centre.

But as the Covid-19 outbreak intensified in the past few weeks, these weekend outings have been replaced by WhatsApp video calls.

"It's safer that we don't meet, and my brother knows it's important that we keep ourselves healthy," said the safety officer, who has worked here for 11 years.

"This is how we can help fight Covid-19," said Mr Ahmed, whose brother Ahmed Jabed, 25, works as an electrician.

Despite active Covid-19 clusters being identified in at least three dormitories here, Mr Ahmed Amad said he is not worried and tells his fellow migrant workers that it is more useful to take care of their own health and personal hygiene.

Mr Ahmed, who volunteers with the Manpower Ministry and is a Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) ambassador, has over the past few weeks been busy reaching out to other workers via social media, WhatsApp and in person to raise awareness of the coronavirus situation and safety measures.

A few days ago, he received a call from a friend who lives in the Westlite Toh Guan dormitory, following news that some of its residents had tested positive for the virus.

"He was very worried, but I told him that he just has to be responsible and follow the measures in place," said Mr Ahmed, noting that Singapore's healthcare facilities are among the best in the world.

Mr Subbaiya Ayyappan, an Indian national in his 40s and a fellow MWC volunteer, said he was initially worried when the Covid-19 outbreak started here in January.

However, he felt safer when he saw what he thought was a quick reaction from the Government to stem the spread.

Mr Ahmed and Mr Ayyappan live in different dorms run by their employers. They said arrangements have been made so that beds are spaced at least 1m apart and there are staggered timings for kitchen or shower use.

While news of dorm clusters has caused some anxiety in the community, Mr Ayyappan reminds his friends that measures such as social distancing and good hygiene can keep them safe.

While this means that their usual weekend games of cricket and football have to wait until the outbreak ceases, Mr Ayyappan said: "The rules are there to protect us but we also need to do something to take care of ourselves.

"This means we don't go out on weekends if we don't need to."

Tan Tam Mei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Migrant workers stay in on weekends to help fight virus'. Print Edition | Subscribe