SINGAPORE - After months of being cooped up in their dormitories, some 50 foreign workers had the chance to stretch their legs in Labrador Park and HortPark on Wednesday (Sept 2), as part of a trial run to allow more healthy workers out of their dorms on rest days.
The workers, who are either recovered Covid-19 patients or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 14 days, played games, ate, and went for walks in the park, in small groups of five.
They were chosen by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which had collaborated with non-governmental organisation Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO), to organise the outing.
The MOM's director of engagement for the foreign manpower management division, Mr Tan Shu Xiang, said the outing was organised to allow the workers to relax and enjoy themselves, especially as the last few months have been challenging for many of them.
"We understand that we need to look after both their physical and their mental well-being," said Mr Tan.
The ministry is also exploring more of such recreational options for the workers, now that most have returned to work, he added.
Workers are still largely restricted to their workplaces and dormitories, or approved locations like recreation centres, as part of measures to control the virus spread among the population.
"We will gradually allow more and more workers to be able to enjoy their off days by coming out of the dormitories," said Mr Tan, adding that this will have to be done in a calibrated manner.
AGWO's chairman Pastor Samuel Gift Stephen and Hope Initiative Alliance (HIA) president Reverend Ezekiel Tan said AGWO, which falls under HIA, plans to continue organising a series of outings and activities under Project Sunshine, together with the MOM and other agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Wednesday's outing was also supported by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, and non-profit initiative A Good Space, they added.
"To use the exact words that they (workers) have used, they feel imprisoned (in the dormitories) and for them, just getting out of the dorm itself is a relief," said Rev Stephen, adding that the workers were very excited about Wednesday's activity.
Bangladeshi construction worker Talukder Sharif, 24, said the outing was the first time in some five months that he had stepped outside his factory-converted dormitory.
He has spent most of his time in the dormitory watching movies and praying, and is still waiting to return to work.
"After such a long time, I can go outside, we are very happy to come to this park," he said.
Rev Stephen said he hopes workers can see, through this activity, that Singaporeans care for them and that they are family.
"They see the news and see Singaporeans are freely going around. So now by bringing them out, we are also saying that... we are here with you."