Gaps in Covid-19 safe management measures at Jurong Fishery Port to be rectified: Grace Fu

Workers at Jurong Fishery Port last month. The humid environment made it uncomfortable for them to wear their masks for a prolonged period.
Workers at Jurong Fishery Port last month. The humid environment made it uncomfortable for them to wear their masks for a prolonged period.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO READER

SINGAPORE - Gaps in safe management measures at Jurong Fishery Port (JFP), such as lapses in mask wearing, will be rectified before the port is reopened, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said in Parliament on Monday (July 26).

While investigations by the Ministry of Health and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) are ongoing to determine how transmission had taken place there, a preliminary review has identified some gaps.

For instance, the humid environment had made it uncomfortable for workers to wear their masks for a prolonged period of time, the minister said. These workers usually have to move boxes of fish and ice, which could weigh up to 120kg.

"This meant a higher propensity for workers to adjust their masks or take them off momentarily," she added, noting that workers could have also taken off their masks when smoking during breaks.

Workers and traders also mixed freely throughout the facility, and some contactless delivery measures were also not strictly followed.

Ms Fu said to date, 76 per cent of workers at the fishery port are fully vaccinated, while 86 per cent have received at least one dose of vaccine.

"Unfortunately, Covid-19 managed to break through the defences, with many cases detected at JFP over the past month. The cases further spread to the markets and hawker centres through the stallholders who had visited JFP," she added.

These gaps in safe management measures will be addressed before the port is expected to reopen on Aug 1, said Ms Fu.

She was responding to questions from several MPs, including Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin (Ang Mo Kio), who had asked about measures taken to ensure the safe reopening of JFP, markets and hawker centres.

The minister said the port will go through a second round of cleaning before its reopening, and common areas and crates will also be regularly cleaned.

The SFA will also work with companies to implement a seven-day rostered routine testing (RRT) for all workers at JFP, and contactless delivery protocols for truck drivers and boatmen will also be stepped up.

Trade visitors who are not on any testing regimes, such as RRT, will have to take an antigen rapid test before entering. There will also be more frequent patrols carried out to ensure compliance of safe management measures.

These enhanced safe management measures will also be progressively rolled out to all the other key food facilities, such as Senoko Fishery Port, Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market, slaughterhouses and pig abattoirs.

Ms Fu said that a one-time polymerase chain reaction test of all workers at the facilities are being carried out, with no big clusters detected.

A seven-day RRT will also be rolled out at key food facilities as soon as possible.

As part of efforts to improve the safety at markets, RRT will also be carried out for all market stallholders once every 14 days. More quick testing centres will be set up and hawkers may also be taught to conduct self testing.

In her reply, Ms Fu also said that Singapore has sufficient stocks of frozen seafood, noting how some in Singapore had rushed to buy seafood over the weekend after JFP was closed on July 17.

She said that SFA and Enterprise Singapore had responded quickly to help distributors and supermarkets activate alternative arrangements, such as diverting supplies directly to the supermarkets' distribution centres and retail outlets.

An alternative site is also being made available for use in the event of another closure of the fishery ports or Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market.

She said: "We will factor in lessons learnt from this episode to better future-proof the sector... This episode has truly tested the resilience of our supply chains. Our overall seafood supply situation has remained stable because of our diversified supply and distribution channels."