Coronavirus pandemic

1.3m reusable masks for migrant workers; over $850k raised too

Left: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann (seated) packing mask kits last Saturday for migrant workers. PHOTO: TEMASEK FOUNDATION Right: A volunteer bottling hand sanitiser to be distr
A volunteer bottling hand sanitiser to be distributed to workers in factory-converted dormitories. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Left: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann (seated) packing mask kits last Saturday for migrant workers. PHOTO: TEMASEK FOUNDATION Right: A volunteer bottling hand sanitiser to be distr
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann (seated) packing mask kits last Saturday for migrant workers. PHOTO: TEMASEK FOUNDATION

Firms, charities and donors have come together to donate 1.3 million reusable cloth masks to Singapore's migrant workers under a community initiative called MaskForce.

The masks, which have a filter pocket, also come with 650,000 surgical masks that can be inserted as filters.

Temasek Foundation, one of the effort's organisers, said in a statement yesterday that contributions from 21 donors and sponsors helped in getting the masks.

The masks will be distributed to 400,000 workers living mostly in dormitories and 250,000 domestic helpers here.

Cases at foreign worker dormitories have continued to spike in recent days, making up the majority of Singapore's total number of Covid-19 infections.

The Government has since made it mandatory to wear masks when not at home.

Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann, who led the MaskForce initiative, said partners stepped forward to help "without any hesitation".

"MaskForce is now prepared to look beyond masks to equip migrant workers with even more items that are practical and helpful," she said.

She added that the initiative, which also involves the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), Centre for Domestic Employees and the Textiles and Fashion Federation, will be kept going as long as there is public support. Most of the reusable masks were produced by local garment manufacturers, with other Singapore firms contributing fabric and sewing machines.

Separately, ground-up initiatives to call for donations to help workers housed at dormitories have seen over $850,000 raised in the past week.

As of 1pm yesterday, an initiative started by local social media personality Preeti Nair has raised more than $304,000 for migrant groups Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and HealthServe, triple its original goal of $100,000.

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At the same time, #HOMEFORALL Migrants, which brings together several groups including TWC2, MWC and A Good Space, among others, has raised more than $555,300 from about 5,600 donors.

Those who wish to donate to these efforts can click the links if you want to donate to Ms Preeti's or the #Homeforall Migrants efforts.

Separately, some 10,600 migrant workers at 43 factory-converted dormitories will get care packs containing masks, hand sanitiser and soap over the next few weeks, the National Trades Union Congress and MWC said.

Such dormitories may lack the resources to implement proper precautionary measures compared with purpose-built dormitories, the organisations said on Saturday.

There are more than 1,100 factory-converted dormitories and other smaller migrant worker housing facilities in Singapore. They house a total of about 120,000 migrant workers.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2020, with the headline 1.3m reusable masks for migrant workers; over $850k raised too. Subscribe