Majority of foreign workers back to work by end-August but Covid-19 cases to fluctuate in next two weeks

Safeguards will still be in place even as work resumes, and all workers living in dormitories will receive routine Covid-19 tests every 14 days. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Almost all foreign workers will have been cleared of Covid-19 by Friday (Aug 7), and the majority will be allowed to go back to work by the end of this month.

This means that many construction activities and projects should be able to resume soon, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong on Thursday.

But with a number of workers still in isolation facilities, the daily number of Covid-19 cases will fluctuate over the next two weeks as they are tested.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the pandemic task force, said the authorities are trying to expedite the process to let workers cleared of Covid-19 return to work as soon as possible.

"We are not only clearing the workers in the dormitories and making sure that they are safe but we want them to get back to work as soon as possible," said Mr Wong.

"And we do expect the vast majority to be able to do so by the end of this month."

He urged employers and contractors to do their part before the workers return by starting preparations to implement the necessary safety measures as soon as possible.

Among other things, employers have to provide dedicated transport between work sites and places of accommodation, with work sites deploying technology such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry to ensure tracking and compliance.

In addition, the housing arrangements are likely to be different. The task force wants a process where workers from the same employers are consolidated together for better management instead of being dispersed across different blocks.

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Mr Wong said on Thursday that safeguards will still be in place even as work resumes, and all workers living in dormitories will receive routine Covid-19 tests every 14 days.

"We will do our very best to work with employers and the contractors to make sure that construction activities and all of these activities that are of a higher risk in nature will be done in a safer manner moving forward."

Mr Wong said at a virtual press conference that the remaining workers who will not be cleared by Friday are those who are currently still in isolation.

He said last month that 28,000 workers will still be serving isolation.

As these workers are tested for Covid-19 over the next two weeks before they are cleared to leave the isolation facilities, this will lead to volatile case numbers, said Mr Wong.

"We don't know how many will be testing positive or negative. It may well be that very high numbers test negative and then we will have very few case counts, but it may also be that a large number test positive," he said.

"Thereafter, we do expect the number of cases to taper down significantly because we will have cleared all workers by then."

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