Coronavirus: Efforts to rehouse foreign workers stepped up

Up to 1,200 can stay at old Chancery Court; parts of Turf Club to become recovery facilities

All 10 halls at Singapore Expo (above) have been converted into community care facilities. The ENA Habitat (below) is one of four floating hotels, which can take in 1,700 foreign workers. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF HEALTH, KHAW BOON WAN/FACEBOOK The former
The former Chancery Court (above) will house healthy foreign workers in essential services, while the multi-storey and open-air carparks at the Singapore Racecourse will house recovering workers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Private property and parts of the Turf Club are among the new designated areas where foreign workers can be housed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said yesterday that the former Chancery Court in Dunearn Road has been refurbished to house healthy foreign workers in essential services. Up to 1,200 workers can stay at Chancery Court, and some have already moved in.

Property developer Far East Organization, which bought the site in 2018, had offered it to help contain the coronavirus outbreak.

SLA said: "This move to ramp up facilities is part of a multi-agency effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

"All necessary measures are put in place, with on-site amenities and meals provided for the well-being of the occupants. The foreign workers will be provided transport to work by their employers and they will also be observing the circuit breaker measures."

Chancery Court was previously reported to have 136 apartments and eight commercial units.

The move to convert it into temporary accommodation for workers was announced by Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Melvin Yong earlier this month in a letter to residents.

He said: "SLA, which oversees the former apartments, has begun refurbishing the site in preparation for temporarily housing a group of healthy migrant workers.

"We understand that a dormitory operator will be appointed to operate the site."

The former Chancery Court will house healthy foreign workers in essential services, while the multi-storey and open-air carparks (above) at the Singapore Racecourse will house recovering workers. PHOTO: SINGAPORE TURF CLUB

Yesterday, in response to queries, he said local neighbourhood committee members had been updating residents about the issue and getting feedback.

Earlier, in a Facebook post on Sunday evening, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, disclosed that there were four floating hotels able to accommodate 1,700 foreign workers.

"We take in those who are healthy or have recovered from Covid-19 infections and are deemed by doctors to be no longer infectious," he said.

"There are now about 360 residents there, but we will need the buffer soon to provide a safe, less crowded accommodation for workers, in line with the (health and manpower ministries') requirements."

The floating hotels are kept apart, and residents are not allowed to visit one another even if they stay in the same hotel.

Mr Khaw added that most of the workers are non-essential ones currently on stay-home orders, and hence cannot leave the place.

The exception is the floating hotel named ENA Habitat, he said.'

All 10 halls at Singapore Expo (above) have been converted into community care facilities. The ENA Habitat (below) is one of four floating hotels, which can take in 1,700 foreign workers. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF HEALTH, KHAW BOON WAN/FACEBOOK The former
The ENA Habitat is one of four floating hotels, which can take in 1,700 foreign workers. PHOTO: KHAW BOON WAN/FACEBOOK

It has been reserved for essential workers needed to ensure the continued operation of Changi Airport. These workers do not interact with their counterparts from other sites. They are taken by bus to and from work.

Mr Khaw emphasised that sick workers are not housed at the floating hotels as they are cared for in hospitals or community care facilities.

Community care facilities are meant for those with mild symptoms and lower risk factors. The bed spaces at such facilities are targeted for increase to 20,000 by the end of next month.

Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said last Saturday that all 10 halls at Singapore Expo have been converted into community care facilities with a total capacity of 8,000 beds.

He said patients at these facilities, who include both foreign workers and locals, are in stable condition and are still monitored regularly.

Work is also ongoing to increase the number of community recovery facilities, which are meant for patients who remain well 14 days after testing positive and do not require further medical care, despite still having the virus.

All 10 halls at Singapore Expo (above) have been converted into community care facilities. The ENA Habitat (below) is one of four floating hotels, which can take in 1,700 foreign workers. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF HEALTH, KHAW BOON WAN/FACEBOOK The former
All 10 halls at Singapore Expo (above) have been converted into community care facilities. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HEALTH

The Singapore Turf Club said yesterday that it is working with the Tote Board and government agencies to temporarily convert parts of its Kranji grounds into community recovery facilities for foreign workers recovering from Covid-19.

These comprise the multi-storey carpark and the adjacent open-air carpark at the Singapore Racecourse, and the sheltered arena at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre.

Construction and building works are expected to be completed by the end of this month.

"The works will be carried out based on approved protocols and procedures by government agencies, ensuring the safety and health of the workers and the equine facilities," said the Turf Club.

"These selected areas are demarcated as restricted zones with no access to the public."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2020, with the headline Efforts to rehouse foreign workers stepped up. Subscribe