Construction sector a key vulnerability in pandemic, will have to go through difficult transition: Lawrence Wong

The Government will tighten safeguards and build new dormitories designed to be more resilient against infection risks. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - The construction sector will need to institute new safeguards at worksites, and continue its push for automation and productivity to reduce its reliance on foreign workers in the wake of Covid-19, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (June 9).

Noting that the sector was a "key vulnerability" in the pandemic, Mr Wong outlined a slew of changes that will need to take place.

For instance, workers in construction, who have accounted for a substantial number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore so far, will have to be tested regularly and comprehensively, said Mr Wong.

"We will also need to review and improve living arrangements for migrant workers," he said.

Commenting on the coronavirus situation in migrant workers' dormitories, which have seen major outbreaks over the past few months, Mr Wong said that the outbreaks occurred despite improvements that have been made to the dormitories over the past decade.

The Government will tighten the safeguards and build new dormitories designed to be more resilient against infection risks, he added.

But Singapore has to be mindful that the infection risks will always remain, he cautioned, due to the large number of workers living together and sharing communal facilities. In fact, all communal living spaces, including nursing homes or cruise ships, will always be at risk in the event of an infectious disease outbreak, he said.

He noted that the changes required are significant and will mean extra costs for the industry, though he gave his assurance that the Government will be introducing new measures to cushion the financial impact of these safeguards, and to help move the industry to new productivity levels.

This support comes on top of short-term costs that will be borne by the Government through the Fortitude Budget.

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Mr Wong also acknowledged that this transition towards new modes of working and living, including reducing the industry's reliance on migrant workers, will be a difficult one for the construction sector.

"I assure everyone in the industry that we will work closely with you to get through this difficult patch, and to emerge stronger from this experience."

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