Coronavirus: Foreign construction workers in flats may now leave home

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

End of stay-home notice for 85,000 of them; those in dorms have to wait until after June 1

From today, about 85,000 foreign construction workers staying in Housing Board flats and private residences, including shophouses, can leave their homes, with the ending of their stay-home notice (SHN) at 11.59pm yesterday.

But they must continue to abide by circuit breaker measures and head out only for necessities, such as buying food.

The move, however, does not apply to construction workers staying in accommodation such as purpose-built dormitories, factory-converted dormitories and temporary quarters on construction sites.

They have to wait until after June 1, when the circuit breaker period ends.

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 staying outside purpose-built dormitories continued to rise.

Advisories on the latest move were sent to employers last Friday by the Ministry of Manpower and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), reminding them to inform their employees to abide by circuit breaker measures even after their 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 dependants' passes revoked, said the advisory.

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

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

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 dependants' passes revoked, said the advisory.

Non-governmental organisations have also disseminated the information to the workers, with groups such as the Alliance of 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 is at work on critical projects that include those which cannot be left idle for too long for safety reasons.

 
 

Foreign workers that The Straits Times spoke to said they understood the need for the regulations.

Most were glad to have the chance to stretch their legs and buy food of their liking.

Mr Balasubramaniam Muthurasu, 44, from India, has already planned his meals for today.

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

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."


SHN affected 180,000 workers and their dependants

 KUA CHEE SIONG
As of yesterday afternoon, Singapore had 305 new Covid-19 cases, most of whom are work permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

• From today, foreign construction workers living in Housing Board flats and private residences, including shophouses, can go out, but only for essential activities such as buying food and seeing a doctor.

• The stay-home notice (SHN) that kept 85,000 of these work permit and S Pass holders indoors ended yesterday at 11.59 pm. Including their dependants, the total number affected by the SHN came to 180,000.

• The Manpower Ministry is not extending the SHN for this group because the incidence of coronavirus infections among them is now similar to that of the wider community, it said last Friday.

• The move does not apply to foreign construction workers who live in factory-converted dormitories and temporary quarters on construction sites. They have to stay in until after June 1.

• The reason being the number of cases in migrant worker dormitories is still high, said the ministry.

• As of yesterday afternoon, Singapore had 305 new Covid-19 cases, most of whom are work permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2020, with the headline 'Foreign construction workers in flats may now leave home'. Print Edition | Subscribe