Many workers from a Kaki Bukit dormitory, where a Bangladeshi worker infected with the coronavirus was said to have been housed, were told to stay away from work by their employers yesterday amid fears that they too could be sick and infectious.
Truckloads of workers from The Leo dormitory were sent back to the dorm when they turned up at worksites in the morning.
The Ministry of Manpower said that MOM and the Ministry of Health had met representatives of the Singapore Contractors Association Limited, contractors and dormitory operators to clarify that those who had close contact with the worker had been quarantined.
MOM said yesterday that 19 people - 10 roommates of the worker, eight people who took the same company transport and a project manager at the worksite - have been issued quarantine orders.
MOM also said that preliminary checks indicated that the employer of the worker had acted responsibly. "When the worker reported feeling unwell, they acted promptly to enable him to seek medical attention and kept him away from the workplace when he was on medical leave," it added.
MOM said that the Bangladeshi worker had spent time only in his dorm room and at his worksite.
The Bangladeshi work pass holder was Singapore's 42nd case of the coronavirus. He tested positive for the virus last Saturday, and is now at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
His symptoms first surfaced on Feb 1, and he went to a general practitioner's clinic on Feb 3, and to Changi General Hospital (CGH) on Feb 5. He was admitted to the intensive care unit at CGH after a follow-up appointment at Bedok Polyclinic last Friday.
Before being admitted to hospital, he visited Mustafa Centre in Little India.
4,100 Number of workers staying in The Leo dormitory.
In the wake of this case, MOM yesterday issued a fresh advisory to dormitory operators to take additional precautionary measures - including to suspend mass activities and stagger the use of common facilities.
At The Leo yesterday morning, many workers were wearing masks or toting bags of groceries from nearby supermarkets.
Cleaners were also disinfecting common touch points like the entry turnstiles - a task that is now done every hour, up from twice daily.
Piling machine operator Muthu Palanivel from India said that while workers were aware of the virus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, many thought it was the Chinese workers who were more at risk.
"But now there is a Bangladeshi affected, so people are more afraid," said Mr Muthu, 31.
About 4,100 workers stay in the dormitory, which has 365 units that can house 12 workers each. The unit at The Leo where the affected worker was registered as staying has been sealed and disinfected.
Mr S.M.A. Jaleel, chief executive of property and logistics solutions company MES Group, which runs The Leo and three other dormitories, said hygiene measures have been stepped up and the company is assisting the authorities.
"I think the Government is doing its level best to contain the situation and there should not be any cause for panic," he said.
Meanwhile at Mustafa Centre, shoppers and staff said it was business as usual.
Tugboat master Soharno Taryo, 65, said he hoped Mustafa Centre would work with the authorities to ensure the store is properly disinfected, but also cautioned against giving in to panic, saying: "Even though this is their responsibility to handle, we cannot be so scared."
• Additional reporting by Shivraj Rajendran
An earlier version of this article had the operator of The Leo dormitory saying the affected worker had not been staying at the dorm recently. The Manpower Ministry has since clarified that the worker in question had been living in the dormitory and was seen there on Feb 5 and 6.