Coronavirus pandemic

Task force to support foreign workers and dorm operators

It will ensure workers' well-being, improve their living conditions amid circuit breaker

Army Medical Services personnel attending to a foreign worker at Westlite in Toh Guan yesterday.
Army Medical Services personnel attending to a foreign worker at Westlite in Toh Guan yesterday. PHOTO: MINDEF

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

With the "circuit breaker" measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus kicking in yesterday, leading to 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 in implementing the "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 - were gazetted as isolation areas on Sunday 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 98 confirmed cases.

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

After some initial hitches, dormitory residents are now 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. Similar care packs will be distributed to resident workers at 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.

Yesterday, 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 generated trash, as resident workers now spend the entire day on the premises.

MOM said that sanitary conditions at the two dormitories have improved from the 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 have been 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".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2020, with the headline Task force to support foreign workers and dorm operators. Subscribe