Back to dorm after Covid-19 recovery

Healthy workers return to Westlite Toh Guan and will soon be able to work

If Westlite Toh Guan sounds familiar, that is likely because it was one of the first two dormitories to be gazetted as an isolation area back in early April. It was an early sign of the spread of Covid-19 among Singapore's migrant workers.

Several more dorm clusters would soon be identified, and now hundreds of cases are reported at the dormitories daily, with the authorities saying they form the "vast majority" of new infections.

With about 38,200 cases among dorm residents today, they make up 94 per cent of Singapore's total tally.

But today, Westlite also represents a sliver of hope that the tide may finally be turning for these workers, and that the Government's efforts at the purpose-built dorms over the past two months are bearing fruit.

Among its eight blocks, which hold some 5,300 workers, there is a specially protected and prepared block housing 195 workers who are healthy or have recovered from Covid-19. They will soon be able to join more than 48,000 other workers cleared of Covid-19 to resume work when the authorities give them the go-ahead.

Such workers at Block 14, the designated block at the Westlite dorm, wear green wristbands to differentiate themselves from others.

Mr Vasudevan Krishnan, the dormitory manager, said officers from the forward assurance support team have made a huge difference in taking care of the workers.

The dorm has also made use of an existing in-house mobile app, adding functions such as temperature recording and Covid-19-related announcements and news, to support the workers' well-being.

One of the workers staying at Block 14 is Mr Thangaraj Ranjith, 41, from India, who has been in Singapore for 10 years.

Speaking in Tamil, he said he first experienced difficulty breathing on April 9, and called the dorm's security for help. An ambulance was called and he was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where he was swabbed and later confirmed to have Covid-19.

He was then transferred to Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where he was isolated and hospitalised for 42 days before he returned to Westlite on May 23.

The construction worker said he did not tell his family he had Covid-19 as he did not want them to worry. "I have not resumed work yet, but I am ready and eagerly looking forward to it," he said.

Fellow Indian construction worker Kuttiyandi Dinesh, 27, also stays at Block 14. He was confirmed to have Covid-19 on April 20, after he had a cough and slight fever.

He said he was well cared for at the Singapore Expo, where he stayed for 40 days.

He was transferred to Tanjong Pagar Terminal and stayed there for another 10 days before returning to Westlite on June 6.

"I'm glad to have recovered and to be back. I understand why we are kept in this block and cannot mix with other residents, for our own health and safety. This will help us remain healthy," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2020, with the headline Back to dorm after Covid-19 recovery. Subscribe