Seven Quick Build Dormitories (QBD) with improved living standards for migrant workers have been completed, with eight more expected to be ready by the second half of next year, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told reporters yesterday.
By then, there will be a total of 25,000 bed spaces at QBDs, up from the 8,000 currently available. These dorms are part of efforts to reduce the density of workers in existing accommodation, he said.
Exact plans for the upcoming QBDs will depend on several factors, such as the pipeline of both public and private construction projects. Keeping an eye on the needs of sectors such as marine and process would also give a better estimate of the number of spaces needed, added Mr Lee.
"So it's a dynamic process, and very much a case of us not just modelling the needs of our firms and our sectors, but also ensuring that we have a good suite of options available for our companies and guest workers," he said.
Mr Lee was speaking with reporters during a visit to one of the first ready-to-move-in QBDs, located in the industrial estate along Kranji Way.
Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng, who accompanied Mr Lee on the visit, said the authorities will press on with the construction of longer-term accommodation even though the number of Covid-19 cases in dorms has remained low in recent weeks.
Westlite Kranji Way is a 1,300-bed dorm developed by JTC and now managed by Westlite Accommodation, a subsidiary of dorm operator Centurion Corporation. Operations there started on Sept 21, with the first residents moving in on Sept 30.
The QBDs are semi-permanent structures meant to last two or three years. They embody new living standards such as having no more than 10 beds per room, and at least 6 sq m of living space per resident, not including shared facilities.
Dr Tan said the strategy by the authorities to spread out workers in dorms has been effective, with the average occupancy in purpose-built dorms dropping to less than 70 per cent.
Factories have been allowed to be converted to dorms, while temporary living quarters have been set up at worksites as part of this "de-densification" process, he said.
Taken together with other measures, such as rostered routine testing of workers, these have led to the relatively more stable Covid-19 situation in Singapore today, he said.
He noted that no foreign worker in a dorm tested positive from Tuesday to Thursday, but urged caution, saying that "the battle is far from over".
He also said the measures implemented are "scientifically based", with studies done to show how droplets can potentially spread disease, demonstrating the benefits of having safe distancing of 1m.
Facilities at Westlite Kranji Way include a minimart, a canteen and a barber shop. The dorm is currently about 26 per cent occupied.
There are five beds to a room, providing a living space of about 6 sq m per resident, not including shared facilities. The room also has personal lockers, power points, and an en-suite toilet, sink and shower.
Safe living measures include segregating the dorm into six clusters, which do not intermix. There are also separate pickup and drop-off points, as well as walkways for residents of different clusters.
Westlite Kranji Way resident Yang Shengli, 50, said he prefers the new arrangement more than his previous accommodation at Woodlands, which had 12 people to a room.
"It's cleaner here, more comfortable, and the staff's attitude is very good. Having one toilet per room is also more hygienic," said the construction worker.