Coronavirus: Foreign construction workers living in flats can go out on Tuesday, with end of stay-home notice

Much like the rest of Singapore, foreign workers can go out only for specific purposes. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - About 85,000 foreign construction workers living in Housing Board flats and private residences can leave their homes on Tuesday (May 19), with the stay-home notice (SHN) for this group ending on Monday at 11.59pm.

They must, however, continue to abide by circuit breaker measures and head out only for necessities, like buying food.

The move does not apply to construction workers living in dormitories such as purpose-built dormitories, factory-converted dormitories and temporary quarters on construction sites. They have to wait until after June 1.

The restriction on movement was imposed as a precautionary measure on April 20, after construction sites looked set to be potential hotbeds of infection.

The SHN was slated to last till May 4, but was extended after the number of infected construction work pass holders living outside purpose-built dormitories continued to rise.

Advisories on the latest move were sent to employers last Friday (May 15) by the Manpower Ministry and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), reminding them to inform their employees to abide by circuit breaker measures even after the SHN ends.

Much like the rest of Singapore, foreign workers can go out only for specific purposes such as buying food and groceries or to seek urgent medical attention.

Those who flout the rules could have their work permits, S Passes or Dependant's passes revoked, said the advisory.

Employers were also reminded to update their employees' address and mobile numbers.

About 180,000 workers and their dependants were affected by the SHN.

Non-governmental organisations have also disseminated the information to the workers, with groups such as the Alliance for Guest Workers Outreach and the Migrant Workers' Centre translating the advisory into Bengali and Tamil, among other languages.

For most of the employees, work will start later as building contractors gradually restart operations from June 2, starting with critical projects.

Foreign construction workers will be tested for Covid-19 before they resume work, and BCA's approval is needed to restart projects.

Priority will be given to projects such as deep tunnelling of sewerage systems and residential renovation projects that were suspended during the circuit breaker period, BCA had said earlier.

Currently, only 5 per cent of the construction workforce are at work on critical projects that include those which cannot be left idle for too long for safety reasons.

Foreign workers The Straits Times spoke to said they understood the need for the various regulations. Most were glad to have the chance to stretch their legs and buy food of their liking.

Mr Balasubramaniam Muthurasu, from India, has already planned his meals for Tuesday.

Breakfast will be thosai, lunch will be a vegetarian meal and he will have chapati for dinner - "all Indian food" that he will buy from eateries outside his hostel in Little India, said the 44-year-old.

Like many of his counterparts, he has been cooped up in a room with five others while serving his SHN.

"Every day, I just watch movies, talk to my family in Chennai, then exercise inside my room," he said, adding that he walks up and down a corridor daily.

"Tomorrow, I will go jogging outside."

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