280 workers' approval rescinded for failing to go for routine Covid-19 testing

Employers yet to register 102,000 workers for rostered routine testing despite Sept 5 deadline

Workers are required to undergo Rostered Routine Testing for Covid-19 every 14 days to be allowed to work.
Workers are required to undergo Rostered Routine Testing for Covid-19 every 14 days to be allowed to work.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Employers have been urged to register workers staying in dormitories, among others, for rostered routine testing, with 102,000 workers yet to be scheduled for their swabs despite just two weeks left to take the test.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) yesterday said it has revoked the approval for about 280 workers to resume work, for failing to undergo rostered routine testing despite multiple reminders.

The testing is part of measures announced earlier this month to ensure the safe restart of work for those deemed to be at higher risk of infection, such as those in the construction, marine and process sectors, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which yesterday announced that it has formed a new division to take over the management of Covid-19 at dormitories from the inter-agency task force.

The task force was set up in January to tackle the coronavirus outbreak here. To curb the spread in the dorms, it had since April deployed over 170 forward assurance and support teams (Fast) to look after workers, which includes testing them and isolating those who have been infected with Covid-19.

The new Assurance, Care and Engagement (Ace) Group, which will be fully operational by Oct 1, will take over the deployment of such teams at all purpose-built dormitories, factory-converted dormitories, construction temporary quarters and private residential premises, said MOM.

The Ace Group will also implement a network of 12 on-site medical centres and sectoral medical centres to continue providing workers close access to medical services as the regional health clusters, such as the National Healthcare Group and SingHealth, phase out their deployment at the dormitories.

The move to have the new division take over dorm operations from the inter-agency task force comes after dormitories islandwide were cleared of Covid-19.

On Aug 7, all migrant workers in dorms had been tested and cleared of Covid-19 except 17 standalone blocks in purpose-built dorms being used as quarantine facilities. These dorms were fully cleared last Wednesday.

The Government is now looking to prevent a new wave of infections in the dorms, using a range of strategies including safe living guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, and rostered routine testing to detect infections quickly.

In a joint statement with BCA, the Economic Development Board and the Health Promotion Board, MOM warned that workers who have not undergone a swab test in the previous fortnight by Sept 5 will receive a Red AccessCode and may not be able to return to work. The testing requirement covers workers staying in dormitories and those working in the construction as well as marine and process sectors.

Personnel who go into worksites are also required to be tested every two weeks. There are about 387,000 foreign workers employed in the construction, marine and process sectors in Singapore.

 
 
 

About 16,000 employers - or 82 per cent - have logged onto the rostered routine testing system to schedule their workers for testing as of yesterday, up from about 15,000 last week.

Ms Debbie Fordyce, president of Transient Workers Count Too, said some employers could have found the process of signing workers up for the tests complicated or time-consuming. For instance, they may have trouble figuring out which workers are required to go for swab testing, or might find it difficult to make transport arrangements.

"Having extra vehicles and drivers to ferry men for rostered routine testing could be difficult, especially for smaller companies, as they would already be stretched with getting workers back to work and making arrangements to carry out projects," she added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2020, with the headline '280 workers' approval rescinded for failing to go for routine testing'. Print Edition | Subscribe