Cruise ships may be used to house workers who have recovered from Covid-19

Workers in essential services also being moved to sites such as sports halls and vacant HDB blocks in Jurong

Works are ongoing to refurbish the vacant flats in blocks 63 to 66 in Yung Kuang Road in Taman Jurong to provide temporary housing for healthy foreign workers in essential services. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA
Works are ongoing to refurbish the vacant flats in blocks 63 to 66 in Yung Kuang Road in Taman Jurong to provide temporary housing for healthy foreign workers in essential services. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Cruise ships are being assessed for their feasibility as temporary housing for foreign workers who have recovered from Covid-19.

Meanwhile, workers without Covid-19 symptoms working in essential services will be progressively moved to four ActiveSG sports halls in Pasir Ris, Jurong West, Clementi and Hougang, as well as three OCBC Arena Halls at the Singapore Sports Hub, as part of the Government's plans to tackle the spread of the coronavirus in dormitories by reducing their density.

About 800 workers will be housed in the halls at the Sports Hub. Strict protocols will be in place to manage the workers' entry and presence at these sport centres.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said that SuperStar Gemini and SuperStar Aquarius, both mid-sized cruise ships operated by Genting Cruise Lines, will be considered as temporary housing for workers who have recovered and are now virus-free on the strength of such factors as ventilation systems, security protocols and infection control measures.

If deemed suitable, the two ships may accommodate up to 2,000 foreign workers in total. Foreign workers would also be allowed scheduled outdoor time on the vessels and would be provided with wireless Internet access.

The cruise ships are being considered as they have readily available rooms and en-suite toilets to minimise person-to-person contact, added the STB.

SuperStar Gemini, which arrived from Hong Kong yesterday, is berthed at Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore. SuperStar Aquarius may be activated for assessment at a later date.

The STB said: "If activated, every effort will be made to uphold the health, welfare and security of foreign workers on board the ship, where they will be expected to observe the highest standards of safe distancing at all times."

More temporary housing space for foreign workers is also being made available on land.

 
 
 

Responding to queries yesterday, STB's director of hotel and sector manpower Tan Yen Nee said that workers are currently being put up in hotels, though she did not specify which ones.

In a notice to residents in Yung Kuang Road yesterday, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is MP for the Taman Jurong ward in Jurong GRC, said that works are ongoing to refurbish the vacant flats in blocks 63 to 66 in Yung Kuang Road to provide temporary housing for healthy foreign workers in the essential services.

He explained to residents that these workers need to be temporarily housed away from the existing worker dormitories, while the Government makes every effort to reduce and stop the spread of Covid-19 in their living quarters.

The four 21-storey blocks, which are connected in the form of a diamond with a courtyard in the middle, are a well-known sight in Taman Jurong and have been dubbed the "diamond blocks" by heritage buffs.

Mr Tharman said precautions are being taken to ensure that the new temporary housing arrangement is safe for everyone. Police and security officers will be deployed on site to ensure that rules are followed, and there will also be a temperature screening station for the workers when they leave for work and return each day.

While the spread of the coronavirus in the wider community has held steady over the past two weeks, the number of cases linked to foreign workers in dormitories has risen exponentially. Most of the 623 new coronavirus cases reported yesterday were linked to foreign workers in dormitories.


  • Additional reporting by Tan Tam Mei
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2020, with the headline 'Cruise ships may be used to house workers who have recovered'. Subscribe