SINGAPORE - Vaccination rates among migrant workers are very high and are increasing, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Tuesday (July 27), as he assured the House that the Government was looking at easing safety measures for these workers.
Mr Wong, who is the co-chairman of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, was asked by several MPs about the well-being of workers, including if they could be allowed back in the wider community after being largely confined to their dormitories.
Due to the large coronavirus clusters in the community, there is a worry that migrant workers might catch the virus if they were to go out, said Mr Wong, as he rounded up the debate on the latest Covid-19 support measures.
"But having said that, the vaccination rates among migrant workers in the dormitory are now very high, and it's getting higher," he said.
However, he gave no indication of when restrictions on workers might be eased.
He also did not provide a figure on their vaccination rate, but on June 8, the Ministry of Manpower said about a fifth of migrant workers, numbering some 55,000, living in dormitories had been fully vaccinated, as at May 31.
Another 67,000 had received their first dose, with their second scheduled to be administered in six to eight weeks.
At the debate, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) noted that migrant workers had been confined mostly to their dormitories for the past 15 months. He wanted to know the Government's plan for letting them leave their dorms to socialise, and suggested that spaces such as old schools and fields could be opened to them in the short term.
Mr Ng also asked for a concrete timeline and long-term plan for lifting movement restrictions on migrant workers when Singapore reopens in phase three, noting that many are fully vaccinated, get tested regularly and live and work under strict safe management measures.
Mr Fahmi Aliman (Marine Parade GRC) raised similar concerns about migrant workers, and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh also asked if there was a road map for them to once again be integrated into the community.
"They've been, as we know, locked down for a long time," said Mr Singh, who is the chief of the Workers' Party.
Mr Wong said the Government was looking at two aspects of easing movement restrictions on workers.
The first would be to give them more leeway to go to recreational centres on dormitory premises and spend more time there.
Workers have been allowed to visit a recreation centre - which houses facilities such as supermarkets and food centres - once a week for four hours at each visit, which they must book through a mobile application in advance. There are eight recreation centres islandwide, with the workers assigned to a fixed centre.
The second would be to allow them time outside in the community.
"We are very, very mindful of the mental well-being of these workers and we know that they have been subject to these restrictions for quite a long time," said Mr Wong.