COVID-19 SPECIAL

Coronavirus: Some workers riding out crisis in relative comfort, thanks to bosses

Mr Clarence Chua (foreground) managed to move three of his employees - (from left) Mr Ibrahim Darzi, Mr Md Jowel Rana and Mr Roy Kumar - out of Sungei Tengah Lodge to an apartment in Bugis.
Mr Clarence Chua (foreground) managed to move three of his employees - (from left) Mr Ibrahim Darzi, Mr Md Jowel Rana and Mr Roy Kumar - out of Sungei Tengah Lodge to an apartment in Bugis.PHOTO: COURTESY OF CLARENCE CHUA

Bangladeshi Md Jowel Rana feared he would be next when three coronavirus cases were detected in the crowded dormitory he was living in, but his mood has taken on a far rosier glow, thanks to a surprise change in accommodation.

Mr Jowel now shares a two-bedroom apartment in Bugis with four colleagues and is riding out the pandemic in relative comfort after his employer Clarence Chua made a snap decision to move the workers. Mr Chua, 37, is general manager of landscaping company Country Cousins.

Three of the men were living in the 25,000-bed Sungei Tengah Lodge dorm when the three virus cases were reported on April 4.

That situation has since exploded with more than 870 infections and the dorm declared an isolation area.

Mr Jowel, 29, had been crammed in a room with 11 others and knew the situation was dangerous as there was no safe distancing and many were still gathering in large groups.

But instead of being confined to the crowded room when hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were effectively placed under lockdown, his boss rustled up the Bugis apartment in just a few days.

Mr Jowel, who is married, told The Straits Times yesterday: "My family is afraid for me because they hear every day in the news that many Bangladeshis are getting infected in Singapore. But I tell them not to worry because my boss came and brought us out."

He said the living quarters in the dorm could become very dirty when crowded, like on a public holiday.

"I am very lucky I am not there now. Here, it is very comfortable... even if I am bored, I am safe," he added.

Over at Unison Construction's factory-converted dorm in Tuas, workers have at least 4.5 sq m of space, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi.

Indian worker K. Manikandan, 25, said: "Everything is perfect here. I feel very safe here because people can't come into our dormitory and we can't go out."

 
 

There are no Covid-19 cases, toilets are rated five-star by the Restroom Association (Singapore), and meals and laundry services provided by his employer.

Mr Naing Win, 39, a maintenance supervisor for construction firm Woh Hup, said he was worried when infections in dorms rose as he did not realise how infectious the virus was. His loved ones were worried, but he was able to give them peace of mind by explaining what his employer had done to take care of him.

The Myanmar national, who is staying in one of Woh Hup's dorms in Joo Koon, said his meals are catered and essential items such as masks and toiletries are provided. There are also laundry services and water dispensers in every room.

Mr Naing Win was put in charge of his 12-man room and helps to distribute food and take the temperature of his roommates every day.

 

He told ST: "We are always reminded to upkeep our personal hygiene and safe distancing.

"Now that we are all aware, we will try our best to do our part to keep the virus away... I feel safer, especially with all the measures that the company has put in place."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2020, with the headline 'Some workers riding out crisis in relative comfort, thanks to bosses'. Subscribe