Coronavirus: Plan for new sites to house recovered migrant workers

Migrant workers peek out of a fence at a factory-converted dormitory in Tuas on April 25, 2020.
Migrant workers peek out of a fence at a factory-converted dormitory in Tuas on April 25, 2020.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

New sites will be developed with dormitories to house migrant workers who have recovered from Covid-19 and these will include longer-term facilities that will be ready in a year or two, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday.

He disclosed this when asked at a virtual press conference whether the workers would go back to staying in their previous dormitories or elsewhere.

Mr Wong also said there was a "whole pipeline of (housing) arrangements" from the short, medium to long term, and that plans will be unveiled soon.

"We do have a plan to house the recovered migrant workers. It is quite extensive and it will involve new sites, new spaces that we will build," he said at the multi-ministry task force press conference.

Some of the spaces will have short-to medium-term housing, but longer-term facilities are also on the cards, he added. "So, it is a whole pipeline of arrangements for the short, medium to long term, (as we think) through holistically what's the ideal arrangement for housing our migrant workers."

As of yesterday, there were 12,183 confirmed coronavirus cases in Singapore who are dorm residents, out of a total of 14,423 cases.

Most of these cases have mild symptoms and are being monitored in the community facilities or general wards in hospitals.

Experts have said that placing these patients in such facilities will prevent acute hospital beds from being unnecessarily filled by relatively well Covid-19 patients.

Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the task force to fight the coronavirus, had highlighted before the need for recovered workers to be housed separately.

In a Facebook post on April 17, he said community care facilities at the Singapore Expo and other sites were being expanded rapidly to take care of infected workers, and additional facilities were being prepared to accommodate them after they have recovered fully and tested negative for Covid-19.

Dorm residents have accounted for the vast majority of new cases confirmed daily for a fortnight.

 
 
 

The Ministry of Health's daily report on confirmed Covid-19 cases shows that there are a total of 323,000 dorm residents. Most of them, or about 200,000, are housed in larger purpose-built dorms meant for communal living.

There are 43 such dorms in Singapore, and 38 of them have known clusters of infected cases.

About 95,000 workers are housed in about 1,200 smaller factory-converted dorms, most of which have fewer than 50 residents. The others stay in on-site housing, which includes temporary quarters at construction sites.

Since last week, about 10,000 foreign workers in essential services have been taken out of dorms and put up at alternative abodes, such as vacant Housing Board flats, floating hotels and military camps.

The move is to reduce the density of workers in dorms while allowing them to continue working.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2020, with the headline 'Plan for new sites to house recovered migrant workers'. Subscribe