MOH and MOM apologise for delay in informing worker that he had tested positive for Covid-19

The worker was staying at Toh Guan Dormitory with 11 roommates.
The worker was staying at Toh Guan Dormitory with 11 roommates.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) have apologised for informing a migrant worker that he had tested positive for Covid-19 only three weeks after he was swabbed, citing an "administrative error" while he was tested.

However, there was no impact on the "appropriateness of the clearance strategy" for Toh Guan Dormitory - where the worker was staying with 11 roommates - or the treatment and care of all the workers there, the ministries said in a joint statement on Sunday (July 19).

The ministries were responding to media queries over Facebook posts made by Ms Tsjin Chandra Dolly and Ms Kelly Soh on July 15.

The Straits Times understands that Ms Tsjin, Ms Soh and the worker belong to the same company.

In their separate posts, Ms Tsjin and Ms Soh said the worker was informed only on July 13 that he had tested positive for Covid-19. He subsequently told them about it on the same day.

The worker had undergone the swab test on June 22, Ms Soh said.

Both women said they were told by MOH on July 13 that the ministry required 24 hours to arrange for the worker to be moved out of the dormitory room.

They were later informed that the multi-ministry task force tackling the outbreak would be handling the matter, the women added.

Nothing was arranged by July 15 and the worker continued to stay in the same room with his 11 roommates, they said.

On Sunday, MOH and MOM said Toh Guan Dormitory has been under isolation since April 6.

Before the ministries began clearing the dormitory, survey tests were conducted on a sample of workers across the dormitory on June 22.

This was to assess the extent of the spread, and to develop the most appropriate strategy for clearing the dormitory, the ministries said.

The worker and his 11 roommates were selected for the survey testing, along with some other residents in the dormitory.

The survey test for the 12 workers, which was pooled as several swabs were added together and tested as a group, came back positive.

This meant that there was a high likelihood that all 12 workers would have been infected, given that they had stayed in the same room for the past three months and the high rate of incidence elsewhere in the dormitory, said MOH and MOM.

 
 
 

The ministries also said that the survey tests were not individualised test results to be used to clear the workers of infection.

But an administrative error in the "conduct of the pool test" for the worker was discovered, in that the test contained only his swab, said MOH and MOM.

The worker's test was therefore actually an individual test instead of a pool test, and he was subsequently informed that he was tested positive for Covid-19.

"We have since reached out to the employer to explain the situation," the ministries added.

The ministries said that the administrative error does not change or impact the overall procedure for clearing the workers at the dormitory, which, among other things, involves a series of serology and individual polymerise chain reaction tests as well as pool-tests.

They said the worker and his roommates had continued to be cared for in their room and monitored by medical staff throughout the testing period.

All 12 of them were also well throughout the period and did not exhibit any acute respiratory infection symptoms.

The worker has since recovered from the coronavirus, while seven of his roommates had old infections from which they had also already recovered.

Of the remaining four, three had recent infections and had been transferred to a community care facility, while one was found to be uninfected and will serve a final isolation period at a government quarantine facility.

 

MOH and MOM said all residents in Toh Guan Dormitory had been tested in end-June, the first week of July and the second week of July.

With the series of tests completed, the dormitory is expected to be cleared later this month, the ministries added.