Coronavirus: 21 vacant HDB blocks in Bukit Merah being refurbished to house essential foreign workers

The Redhill Close flats were vacated in 2018 but not yet demolished. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Some 21 vacant Housing Board blocks in Bukit Merah are being refurbished to house healthy foreign workers working in essential services, the Ministry of National Development (MND) has said.

The workers will start to move into the three-room flats progressively as works are completed in the coming weeks.

MND said in response to queries from The Straits Times on Wednesday (April 8) that the affected blocks had earlier undergone the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, which buys back from residents public housing sitting on land with high redevelopment potential for other purposes.

The flats were vacated in 2018 but not yet demolished.

With foreign dormitories becoming a source of concern for the spread of the coronavirus in recent days, an inter-agency task force has been set up to, among other things, ensure that any disruption to essential services is minimised by having workers in these industries housed separately.

The foreign workers who are expected to move into the Redhill Close flats work in areas such as cleaning and maintenance.

In a notice to residents in the area on Monday, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan said that the dormitories of the workers slated to move in have not been spared from Covid-19.

Housing them separately will "keep them safe from the disease, which will in turn keep us safe when they are working in our midst", said Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

He also assured residents that just like the rest of Singapore during the "circuit breaker" measures, which began on Tuesday, the workers will remain in their flats except to travel to work using company transport or to buy essentials.

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Police and Certis officers will be deployed to maintain order at these blocks.

"Let's show our support to these workers by welcoming them during this difficult period," he added.

The Straits Times has contacted MND for more information.

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