Pass scheme to limit migrant worker footfall at 4 popular locations ‘effectively dormant’: Tan See Leng

A group of migrant workers at Jurong East on June 26, 2022. They had applied for the Popular Places Pass. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – A scheme limiting the number of migrant workers who visit four popular locations on Sundays and public holidays is “effectively dormant”, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Tuesday.

The Popular Places Pass was introduced in June 2022 to manage crowding in Chinatown, Geylang Serai, Jurong East and Little India – areas that were identified as having high footfall.

It was put in place after the last remaining Covid-19 movement controls on foreign workers living in dormitories were lifted that same month.

In a written parliamentary reply to Workers’ Party MP He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC), Dr Tan said no migrant worker has been stopped from visiting the four areas under the pass scheme.

Crowd levels at the locations have been manageable and there have been more than enough passes to meet demand, he added.

No enforcement action has been taken against any worker for not obtaining a pass, the minister said.

In June 2022, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said up to 80,000 passes would be made available each Sunday or public holiday, with approval granted almost instantly.

Migrant workers living in dormitories can apply for the pass using the SGWorkPass mobile app.

MOM also said then that it would conduct random checks at the locations, and engage migrant workers on the application process.

Ms He asked on Tuesday if there were any plans to wind the scheme down.

In response, Dr Tan said MOM has kept the Popular Places Pass “effectively dormant” since vaccination-differentiated safe management measures were lifted in October 2022 as part of Singapore’s move towards living with Covid-19.

He added: “MOM will continue to review and ease safe management measures in line with the Covid-19 situation.”

Before the Popular Places Pass was introduced, migrant workers living in dormitories had to apply for an exit pass before they could leave their accommodation to visit public places for leisure.

There was also a limit on the number of migrant workers allowed to leave their dormitories.

Initially, up to 500 vaccinated workers were allowed to visit Little India each week as part of a pilot scheme that began in September 2021 – some 18 months after worker dormitories were placed under lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The limits on the number of workers allowed into the community were gradually eased, with the quota eventually raised in April 2022 to 50,000 on weekends and public holidays and 25,000 on weekdays.

These limits were completely lifted in June 2022, with the pass scheme serving as a contingency measure.

Infectious diseases experts previously said that the high vaccination rate among dormitory residents made it hard to justify restricting their movements. This was especially given the impact that prolonged confinement had on their mental health.

As at end-2021, there were roughly 323,000 migrant workers living in dormitories in Singapore.

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