SINGAPORE - Seven Quick Build Dorms (QBD) with improved living standards for migrant workers have been completed, with eight more expected to be ready by the second half of next year, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told reporters on Friday (Oct 30).
By then, there will be a total of 25,000 bed spaces at QBDs, up from the 8,000 currently available. These dorms are part of efforts to reduce the density of workers in existing accommodation, he said.
Exact plans for the upcoming QBDs will depend on several factors, such as the pipeline of both public and private construction projects. Keeping an eye on the needs of sectors such as marine and process would also give a better estimate of the number of spaces needed, added Mr Lee.
"So it's a dynamic process, and very much a case of us not just modelling the needs of our firms and our sectors, but also ensuring that we have a good suite of options available for our companies and guest workers," he said.
Mr Lee was speaking with reporters on Friday during a visit to one of the first ready-to-move-in Quick Build Dorms, located in the industrial estate along Kranji Way.
Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng, who accompanied Mr Lee on the visit, said the authorities will press on with the construction of longer-term accommodation even though the number of Covid-19 cases in dorms has remained low in recent weeks.
Westlite Kranji Way is a 1,300-bed dorm developed by JTC and now managed by Westlite Accommodation, a subsidiary of dorm operator Centurion Corporation. Operations there started on Sept 21, with the first residents moving in on Sept 30.
The QBDs are semi-permanent structures meant to last two or three years. They embody new living standards such as having no more than 10 beds per room, and at least 6 sq m of living space per resident, not including shared facilities.
Dr Tan said the strategy by the authorities to spread out workers in dorms has been effective, with the average occupancy in purpose-built dorms dropping to less than 70 per cent.
Factories have been allowed to convert to dorms, while temporary living quarters have been set up on worksites as part of this "de-densification" process, he said.
Taken together with other measures, such as rostered routine testing of workers, these have led to the relatively more stable Covid-19 situation in Singapore today, he said.
"We hope to continue to maintain the cadence. We should never let our guard down; the battle is far from over, in fact at this point in time, the bulk of the cases we're reporting are imported cases. But does this mean that the pandemic is over? I don't think so," said Dr Tan.
On the improved living standards and active measures at Westlite Kranji Way, he said they will contribute towards preparing the country and the migrant worker community against future outbreaks, noting that there has been an average of one infectious disease outbreak globally every four to five years since Sars in 2003.
He said that the measures implemented are "scientifically based", with studies done to show how droplets can potentially spread disease, demonstrating the benefits of having safe distancing of 1m.
"While we built this (QBD) to allow some workers to move out, we also endeavour to work with existing dorm operators to see how we can help with their facilities and continue to de-densify," Dr Tan said, responding to a question on whether existing dorms would be required to meet the improved standards.
Centurion Corporation currently manages four QBDs in Kranji Way, Jalan Tukang and Tuas.
Facilities at Westlite Kranji Way include a minimart, a canteen and a barber shop. The dorm is currently about 26 per cent occupied, although leases have been committed for 74 per cent of the beds available.
There are five beds to a room, providing a living space of about 6 sq m per resident, not including shared facilities. The room also has personal lockers, power points, and an en-suite toilet, sink and shower.
Communal kitchens and dining areas are designed for groups of 30 or 40 residents.
Safe living measures include segregating the dorm into six clusters, which do not intermix. This means that if a resident is infected, the number of people that needs to be quarantined would be smaller, minimising work disruptions.
There are also separate pick-up and drop-off points, as well as walkways for residents of different clusters.
The 20 sick bay beds available form 1.5 per cent of the total bed count of 1,300, a ratio which conforms to the piloted standards announced by Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower in June.
Westlite Kranji Way resident Yang Shengli, 50, said he prefers the new arrangement more than his previous accommodation at Woodlands, which had 12 people to a room.
"It's cleaner here, more comfortable, and the staff's attitude is very good. Having one toilet per room is also more hygienic," said the construction worker.