SINGAPORE - Some workers staying in dormitories will from later this month be able to leave their dormitories to visit recreation centres, where they can buy groceries and SIM cards, and remit money to their loved ones back home.
This will be part of a trial for workers to engage in social activities while ensuring they are safe from Covid-19, following the clearance of all dormitories on Tuesday (Aug 11).
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), together with industry associations and NGOs, said in a statement on Wednesday that small-scale trials for the visits to recreation centres will begin this month for residents from selected cleared dormitories.
The eventual goal is to allow residents from cleared dorms to enjoy their rest days without movement restrictions, it added.
The ministry said it recognises that leisure and being able to run errands are activities that are "important for the mental well-being of the residents".
It added that it "appreciates workers' and employers' cooperation over these last four months and understands their anxieties".
Suicides and attempted suicides reported by the media and documented in videos shared online have renewed concerns over the mental and emotional health of workers, many of whom spent the past few months confined to their living quarters.
MOM did not reveal how many workers will be participating, but said the trials will allow it to refine exit pass arrangements, and progressively increase the number of participating dormitories over the next two months.
The statement was jointly issued by MOM and 14 industry associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Singapore Contractors Association Limited, the Association of Singapore Marine Industries, Healthserve and Transient Workers Count Too.
There are eight centres across the island, in locations like Kranji, Tuas, Woodlands and Kaki Bukit.
The ministry aims to allow all dormitory residents to apply for exit passes to visit recreation centres by October, after which it will review the rules on how long they can stay out and where they can go on their rest days.
Some workers are already returning to work as the construction and marine shipyard sectors are slowly resuming their activities.
To reduce crowding outside the dormitories on rest days, MOM said residents' exits will be spread out across each day.
Workers in dormitories will also have to apply for an exit pass with a specific time slot through the SGWorkPass app.
To receive exit passes, dormitory residents have to meet a few criteria. These include a negative Covid-19 swab test prior to their exit date, not being on quarantine order or stay-home notice, and prior registration on the TraceTogether app.
MOM said that regulating the entry and exit of dormitory residents was necessary to protect the dormitory residents and the broader community.
It also made clear that dormitory operators and employers cannot deny workers who have an exit pass from leaving the dormitory to visit a recreation centre.
The ministry added that workers would be allowed to leave dormitories to run essential errands like collecting passports and attending medical or dental appointments after their employers or dormitory operators had submitted their particulars and documentation to MOM detailing the errand.
In two separate statements on Wednesday, MOM, the Building and Construction Authority, Association of Singapore Marine Industries, Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore also announced measures to stagger the rest days of their workers so as to help reduce crowding.
MOM added that it welcomes community and NGO efforts to expand programmes and initiatives in the dormitories so that there are more options for the residents during their rest day.