Additional Covid-19 testing for maids, confinement nannies entering S'pore

Newly arrived workers in the construction, marine and process sectors will be required to undergo a seven-day testing regime after their stay-home notice. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There will be additional coronavirus testing measures for foreign domestic workers and confinement nannies landing in Singapore from Friday (Feb 5), said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday.

They will have to take a serology test on arrival, in addition to a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that has been mandatory since Jan 24.

This will distinguish workers who have recovered from a past Covid-19 infection from active cases. Those that test positive for antibodies in the serology test can be released from Stay-Home-Notice (SHN), which MOM said reduces costs for employers who have to pay for the SHN.

"Whether or not this move will benefit employers depends on the details of the testing and the statistics. If the tests take too long to be processed, then the savings won't be much. If they are done within a short amount of time, for example five days, then it will result in a cost reduction of about one third of the $1,500 SHN cost for employers, which is substantial," said managing director of Universal Employment Agency Elizabeth Leong.

"It also depends on the proportion of maids who test positive for antibodies. If it's a small percentage like one out of every 100, this move will not be helpful to the other 99 employers," she added.

The cost of testing for foreign domestic workers is currently borne by employers, while the cost of SHN can be split between the employment agencies and employers, depending on their individual arrangements.
An MOM spokesperson said that the ministry will be reaching out to affected employees this week.

Foreign workers in the construction, marine and process sectors have already been subject to PCR and serology tests on arrival in Singapore since Jan 18. Those who have antibodies will be exempted from SHN, the 7-day testing regime and rostered routine testing, in order to minimise disruption to work and to reduce costs for employers, MOM said.

MOM also announced on Wednesday that newly arrived work permit holders and S-pass holders in the construction, marine and process sectors will now be required to do the post-Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) 7-day testing regime. This additional requirement will apply to all who have yet to complete their SHN by Feb 5, and all new arrivals from that day onward.

Under this new measure, workers will spend these seven days at a designated facility and undergo additional swab tests when they start work. This is after they complete their 14-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities on arrival and undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The additional seven-day testing regime has already been required of workers staying in dormitories since Jan 6.

The MOM said that the multi-ministry task force made the decision to extend the testing measures to further reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace.

Said chief operating officer of Straits Construction Kenneth Loo: "From a public health perspective, we welcome this move, as the last thing we want is to have infections on our job sites causing another lockdown."

The new measures will apply to workers with travel history in territories the government deems as high-risk due to the prevalence of Covid-19 infection there.

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