SINGAPORE - More migrant workers and foreign domestic helpers will soon be allowed to enter Singapore to work, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday (June 24).
"This will ease the immense pressures our companies have been under since the start of the pandemic," he said, adding that this will also allow family members to reunite and their migrant domestic helpers to join them.
When asked how the Government will ensure that migrant workers are brought into Singapore in a safe manner, Mr Gan said the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Trade and Industry and other ministries are working together to strengthen its precautionary measures.
These include measures at the entry point as they enter Singapore, the process of the stay-home notice they will have to serve, and safety precautions in their dormitories and workplaces.
Allowing more migrant workers to enter Singapore will also be dependent on the source country's vaccination rates and Covid-19 situation, said Mr Gan, who is a co-chairman of the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic.
"So we are also working with the source country to introduce measures at the source country level, to prevent the importation of Covid-19 cases," he said during a virtual press conference held by the task force.
"We need to take a multi-pronged approach to ensure that we are able to open the borders for more migrant workers to arrive safely, and this is very critical for our economic activities to resume."
Allowing migrant workers to enter Singapore to work is crucial to the Republic's reopening and the recovery of its economy. This is even as the Government is focusing on ensuring the health and safety of the population, said Mr Gan.
The key to helping the economy recover is to have more than two-thirds of its population vaccinated, he added.
The minister was responding to a question on whether any economic factors or pressures are being considered in Singapore's reopening timeline.
Enhanced border restrictions in recent months, including barring those with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, have placed significant stressors on sectors dependent on migrant workers.
In May, the MOM also stopped accepting new entry applications for work pass holders from higher-risk countries or regions due to Covid-19, except for workers needed in key strategic projects and infrastructural works.
Work pass holders from these countries who were approved to enter Singapore before July 5 were no longer allowed to do so, with some exceptions.
On Thursday, Mr Gan noted that these measures have left sectors such as construction restricted "in many ways for a long time".
"Many of them (workers) come from overseas sources, and we need to find a way to allow them to return to Singapore so that projects can proceed," he said.
This is also the case for foreign domestic helpers, who are needed to help families in their housekeeping and caregiving needs, said Mr Gan.
Export-oriented industries are also under stress, as they have orders to fulfil but limited access to manpower.
"This is an area that we will need to look at, how we can help them to resume their activities, even domestically," he said.
The food and beverage sector as well as hospitality and tourism-related industries have also not been able to resume fully.
"Some of these sectors will not be able to open until we are able to reach a high level of vaccination, so that we are able to resume these activities safely," he added.
He noted that while Singapore is on track to allow dining in for groups of up to five people by mid-July, he understands that some F&B operators are hoping for the restrictions to ease to allow up to eight to 10 people per group, or remove capacity limits altogether.
"So I think we have to move in that direction. But it all depends on the pace at which we can achieve a high level of vaccination. So vaccination is still the key to our opening of our economy," said Mr Gan.