SINGAPORE - Migrant workers who have not been infected with Covid-19 will be getting their vaccine jabs, starting Friday (March 12) with 10,000 workers from five of the biggest dormitories.
This comes as the authorities ease restrictions on recreation time for workers, permitting them more and longer visits to recreation centres, and with plans to allow visits to the community, once a month, in the future.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said: "When a large majority of dorm residents are recovered workers or vaccinated and the risk of transmission in dormitories is greatly reduced, we can ease further."
MOM said the workers getting the vaccines first are at Sungei Tengah Lodge, Tuas View Dormitory, CDPL Tuas Dormitory, PPT Lodge 1B, and Kranji Lodge 1. They should all be fully vaccinated by mid-April.
Only those who consent and are screened to be suitable will receive the vaccination. Vaccinated workers will be tested every 28 days instead of the current 14. The vaccination will progressively be made available to other workers.
About 320,000 migrant workers live in dormitories, and infections there have accounted for the vast majority of 60,000 Covid-19 cases recorded in Singapore so far.
Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said in a Facebook post on Monday that workers and employers will get an information booklet and videos on the safety and benefits of vaccination.
"Vaccination for our migrant workers is one of the many ways we assure and care for our migrant workers just like we care for Singaporeans during this pandemic," Dr Tan added. "This will go a long way towards protecting every worker and strengthening the resilience of our dormitories and community against Covid-19."
Mr Calvin Lim, general manager of CDPL (Tuas) Dormitory, told The Straits Times that workers who have not been infected with Covid-19 before have been identified by previous rounds of testing conducted by the authorities.
He said the policy to vaccinate workers is "in the right direction". "It opens up further opportunities for the residents to return to some degree of communal activities beyond what they currently are able to experience solely in the dormitory," he noted.
"This serves to improve their physical and mental well-being in the long run."
Mr Simon Lee, chief operating officer of TG25, which runs Sungei Tengah Lodge, said there are about 3,100 workers in the dorm who have not contracted Covid-19.
He added that a straw poll showed that both employers and workers welcome the chance for vaccination.
Dr Tam Wai Jia, the founder of My Brother SG, a nationwide migrant worker engagement network, said workers have shown strong understanding of Covid-19 and its vaccines.
Dr Tam, who is also the deputy lead of global health and community service at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, added: "While there have been reasonable concerns about side effects, the overwhelming majority are looking forward to receiving the vaccine when their turn comes."
This article has been edited to include updated information from MOM.