Coronavirus: Close to 700 foreign workers housed at Home Team Academy, Civil Defence Academy

Civil Defence Academy in Jalan Bahar has been housing about 300 foreign workers. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

SINGAPORE - Close to 700 foreign workers are now being housed temporarily at Home Team Academy (HTA) and Civil Defence Academy (CDA) dormitory blocks, following plans to relocate them to alternative sites, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus in foreign worker dormitories.

Other foreign workers will also be housed in four premises under the Ministry of Education (MOE), including Northshore Primary School in Punggol North.

A CDA dormitory block in Jalan Bahar has been housing foreign workers since April 9, with about 300 currently living there, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in a statement on Wednesday (April 15).

"This is part of a whole-of-government effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in view of the increase in cases at foreign worker dormitories," said an SCDF spokesman.

A dormitory block at the HTA in Old Choa Chu Kang Road has also been housing foreign workers. About 370 workers in essential services are living there now.

"HTA is able to accommodate more if the need arises," a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Both the HTA and SCDF said that this has no impact on the training schools' operations. Training programmes will continue and enhanced measures, such as safe distancing and daily health declarations, have already been put in place. There is also sufficient accommodation for CDA trainees, the SCDF added.

Apart from Northshore Primary School, three other MOE premises - the Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres (OALCs) in Dairy Farm and Labrador as well as the Sarimbun Scout Camp in Lim Chu Kang - will be used to house foreign workers.

The Sarimbun Scout Camp is a 12ha campsite that provides experimental learning for young people.

The opening of Northshore Primary School had been delayed to 2021, following low demand for places. It is expected to open as scheduled in January.

In a statement on Thursday, the MOE said that it will be implementing various health and safety protocols at the temporary facilities, such as keeping the workers in isolation and on stay-home notice where appropriate, but did not specify how many workers were currently staying at the facilities.

Workers in essential services will be allowed to travel only between work and their accommodation, while those in non-essential services will be required to stay within the premises, the MOE added.

Foreign worker dormitories have been a growing source of concern during the Covid-19 outbreak, with 17 of the 43 large purpose-built dormitories now having clusters. There are also at least nine clusters at smaller factory-converted dormitories.

About 7,000 foreign workers in essential services living in purpose-built dormitories have moved into alternative living areas, such as military camps, floating hotels and vacant Housing Board blocks.

Last week, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the outbreak, said during a media conference that the number of workers in each dormitory needs to be reduced so that effective public health measures can be put in place.

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