Migrant workers look forward to sports tournaments as Covid-19 measures ease

Migrant workers shopping at a department store located within the S11 @ Punggol dormitory on March 18, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Rana Sohel is looking forward to playing in a football tournament at his dormitory in Punggol again.

"I really miss the team activities, going out with friends, and talking to them freely," said the 34-year-old Bangladeshi maintenance service worker, who has worked in Singapore for 15 years.

He lives in S11 @ Punggol, and the dormitory operator is planning to launch football and badminton tournaments on Labour Day, on May 1, after Covid-19 measures in dorms and recreational centres were eased on March 15.

The multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 announced last week that safe management measures will no longer be differentiated for migrant workers living in dormitories here, compared to those for the wider community.

Sports activities involving up to 30 fully vaccinated people at supervised sports facilities within dormitories and recreation centres can resume.

Sports tournaments at S11 - which accommodates up to 30 residents per outdoor court currently - were usually hosted at least once every four months before the pandemic.

"I'm definitely happy with the relaxation of measures and I will begin asking my friends to play in this tournament… we have been waiting for this moment," Mr Sohel said earlier this week.

Residents are now also allowed to mingle with one another in the common areas and facilities within the dormitory.

Previously, they were allowed to use these areas at staggered intervals to minimise physical interaction between residents from different blocks.

Other changes at S11 include the lifting of capacity limits at the minimart, which used to be able to accommodate up to 65 people at a time. Common rooms for recreational activities that were closed since the pandemic have also reopened.

Further changes to the rules will be made gradually, said an S11 spokesman.

"We will slowly ease in the relaxation of measures... It's all about gradually easing the measures so that nobody is caught off-guard and things continue to be in order," he said.

Migrant workers at Marina Beer House located within the S11 @ Punggol dormitory on March 18, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
Migrant workers at the communal kitchen of the S11 @ Punggol dormitory on March 18, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Westlite Woodlands dormitory is also preparing for new events and activities for its residents.

Ms Kathrine Lee, manager of Westlite Resi-Life Programme, said: "We have reopened nearly all communal leisure amenities in our dormitories, such as gyms, recreation rooms, multipurpose halls and outdoor courts, and residents have begun to visit these facilities again."

A charity cricket tournament for Westlite dormitories scheduled for October is also in the works. With the revised safe management measures, the tournament will be able to accommodate two teams from each dormitory with the full 11 players per side.

In last year's cricket tournament, there were two teams each from six Westlite dormitories, but every team only featured two players.

Last year's charity cricket tournament held at Turf City. The tournament this year is scheduled for October. PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Ahmed Ali, a Bangladeshi construction worker, is looking forward to the tournament and defending the title. He and a dorm mate won last year's tournament for Westlite Woodlands.

"I am really happy to be able to play in a full team of 11 with my fellow residents," the 37-year-old told The Sunday Times.

Since December, the number of Covid-19 cases reported daily in dorms has been fewer than 100 on most days. At least 98 per cent of dorm residents are fully vaccinated, and the take-up rate for booster shots has been "very strong", the Ministry of Health said last week.

The number allowed to make community visits has also been raised from March 15. Up to 15,000 vaccinated migrant workers will be allowed on weekdays, and up to 30,000 on weekends and public holidays. This is an increase from the previous quota of 3,000 on weekdays, and 6,000 on weekends and public holidays.

Migrant workers have to apply for exit passes to selected locations in the community before they can leave the dormitories.

S11 resident Letchumanan Muralidharan said that he prefers to be on the safe side and remain in his dormitory.

"I used to take public transport and go to the temple every weekend before the pandemic… I have not gone since Covid-19 and I just pray by myself now in the dorm," said the 45-year-old construction manager.

He appreciates the effort Singapore has made to keep migrant workers safe and noted how the Covid-19 situation has been very well controlled in dormitories.

"I am waiting for the day the safe management measures will open up again further… I can finally go to the temple every weekend when that happens," Mr Muralidharan said.

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