Clearing smaller dorms of coronavirus will take time, says Lawrence Wong

A healthcare worker takes a swab test from a migrant worker at Westlite Papan Dormitory on April 21, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

The number of foreign workers living in dormitories who test positive for the coronavirus daily continues to be high in part because of an "active and aggressive testing regime" that sees more workers being tested each day, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

"We expect to still see these numbers for a few more weeks before they stabilise, but our strategy is working and we are making progress day by day in clearing these dormitories," he told a press conference yesterday.

While the coronavirus situation in larger purpose-built foreign worker dormitories is stabilising, Mr Wong said it will take time to clear other smaller dorms, such as factory-converted ones.

Several cases of Covid-19 were recently detected among healthcare workers and other support staff working in dormitories and community care facilities like the one at Singapore Expo. "We already have precautions in these settings but we are doing more now by also testing the workers who are working in these settings," Mr Wong said.

He added that these workers will be tested not just once but periodically to ensure they can do their work in a safe environment.

The Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the ministry is very concerned about the number of staff involved in dormitory operations who have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

"We want to make sure that they were properly trained in the use of their personal protective equipment and masks, and that they were obeying and respecting the infection control measures to make sure that they were properly protected," said Associate Professor Mak. "If needed, we will work with the inter-agency task force on refresher training, as well as having staff carry out inspections to watch over each other and make sure that everyone is doing the right thing."

Prof Mak also said the Health Ministry decides whether or not to attribute the death of a patient to Covid-19 based on the advice of medical authorities such as a doctor who attended to the patient or a coroner.

"Our approach really is first to ask ourselves, is this directly attributable to Covid-19 infection or complications related to Covid-19 infection? If they are, we will report them as such," he said.

"This comes out in our press statement every day. We are quite transparent in announcing and reporting all the deaths that we have."

He said that if a death is determined not to be due to Covid-19, it will still be reported but not attributed to the virus.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2020, with the headline Clearing smaller dorms of coronavirus will take time, says Lawrence Wong. Subscribe