Coronavirus: Inter-agency taskforce to provide support to foreign workers, dormitory operators

Workers queueing to collect food and drinks at S11 Dormitory @ Punggol on April 6, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - An inter-agency task force has been set up to provide support to foreign workers and dormitory operators, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday (April 7).

Since the circuit-breaker measures kicked in on Tuesday to halt the spread of the coronavirus and with the closure of most worksites, foreign workers are not able to go to work.

The task force will ensure their well-being and improve their living conditions by supporting dormitory operators as they implement circuit-breaker measures.

Foreign worker dormitories have been a source of concern during the coronavirus outbreak due to the large number of workers housed in them.

Two such dormitories - S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite in Toh Guan - have been gazetted as isolation areas after emerging as major Covid-19 clusters. Workers will be quarantined in their rooms for 14 days.

S11 Dormitory in Punggol is currently the largest virus cluster, with 88 confirmed cases.

A third dorm, Toh Guan Dormitory at Toh Guan Road East, which houses 4,500 workers, was declared an isolation area under the Infectious Diseases Act on Monday (April 6) night.

After some initial hitches, dormitory residents have now been able to receive their meals in a timely and orderly fashion, said MOM.

Caterers have adjusted their menus to suit the dietary preferences of the residents and are distributing meals in batches to ensure freshness and to stagger meal times.

The 20,000 workers housed at S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite in Toh Guan have received care packs consisting of masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers. A similar care pack will be distributed to residents of Toh Guan Dormitory.

Basic medical facilities have been set up at S11 and Westlite to provide healthcare for the workers'. Those who are unwell will be housed separately to prevent them from infecting their roommates.

MOM has deployed teams on the ground to ensure workers monitor their temperature twice daily and wear masks when they step out of their rooms to collect meals or use the washroom.

These teams are supported by the Ministry of Health, National Environment Agency, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Police Force, Migrant Workers' Centre and other agencies.

On Tuesday, 70 SAF Army Medical Services personnel, wearing personal protective equipment, provided basic health screening and consultation services to the foreign workers.

Both dormitory operators have also ramped up cleaning routines. They are dealing with increased usage of washroom facilities and more trash as resident workers now spend the entire day on the premises.

But MOM said that sanitary conditions at the two dormitories have improved from previous days.

Trash collection has increased from once daily to three times a day. Common areas and toilets are also disinfected and cleaned three times a day.

In all foreign worker dormitories, staggered meal and recreation times are implemented, as well as measures meant to prevent the intermingling of workers from different dorms.

The Government will house foreign workers in essential services separately.

In its statement, MOM said it will continue to "keep a close eye on the dormitory conditions and will intervene proactively to ensure standards."

Six other dormitories are now active virus clusters: Sungei Kadut Dormitory, Sungei Tengah Lodge, Cochrane Lodge II, Tampines Dormitory, Cochrane Lodge I and Kranji Lodge.

Singapore reported 66 cases of Covid-19 on Monday (April 6), bringing the total number of cases here to 1,375.

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