Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Iswaran sends video message to migrant workers to tackle concerns

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran spoke in Tamil in a video to migrant workers. Another version was dubbed in Bengali.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran spoke in Tamil in a video to migrant workers. Another version was dubbed in Bengali. PHOTO: GOV.SG

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran yesterday sent a video message to migrant workers to assuage the concerns of those living in dormitories who have been subjected to stringent measures and active testing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking in Tamil, Mr Iswaran explained the need to test them and their co-workers for Covid-19 and said the Government has "undertaken numerous efforts to enhance the quality of food and facilities" within their dorms.

The video, with a second version dubbed in Bengali, was sent via WhatsApp to workers yesterday, the first day of the extended circuit breaker period slated to end on June 1.

"If (your friends test) positive, we will provide them with the necessary medical care fully paid for by the Government. We will provide you with the necessary quality medical care as we do for Singaporeans. This is our promise," Mr Iswaran said.

As of Monday, more than 5 per cent, or 16,393, of the 323,000 migrant workers living in dorms have tested positive for the virus. Many of them are Indian nationals.

This has caused public attention to focus on the dorm conditions and whether more could be done to help the workers.

Many workers remain quarantined in their rooms, while the stay-home notice period for work permit and S Pass holders in the construction sector has been extended by another two weeks to May 18.

In the message, which also urged migrant workers to cooperate and do their part, Mr Iswaran said that he had approached four Indian stars to send their wishes and encouragement to the workers on video.

They include actor Rajinikanth and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who both urged the workers to abide by the Singapore Government's rules. Renowned composer A.R. Rahman and actor Kamal Haasan also recorded messages to convey their good wishes.

Mr Haasan said: "When we look after ourselves, don't forget that it is also like we are looking after the Government. The Government is not a separate entity from us, we are all part of the same ecosystem."

Mr Rahman said workers, like their countrymen in India, should follow the Government's announcements and practise safe distancing.

"It is in your hands for you all to be careful and stay safe," he added.

Questions have also been raised about the quality of the meals served to the workers, with photos and messages circulating online criticising the quality and quantity of the food, especially in the initial stages of measures to contain the spread of the virus in dormitories.

While acknowledging initial logistical kinks, the Government has said that food quality has greatly improved and the milestone of the 10 millionth meal served to migrant workers was crossed recently.

Mr Iswaran, without referring to the food quality issue specifically, said workers should visit official sources such as Gov.sg for correct information and not worry themselves over fake news.

He said services in the dorms have been enhanced to make sure workers can communicate with their families, get necessary information from the Internet, and watch their favourite films.

• Additional reporting by Shivraj Rajendran

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Iswaran sends video message to migrant workers to tackle concerns. Subscribe