Coronavirus Singapore

Vaccinated workers with no symptoms can recover in dorms

Shift to greater use of ARTs among measures aimed at reducing disruption to workers' lives

Covid-19 measures for migrant workers living in dormitories have been revised to focus on those with symptoms and who need medical care, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.

The changes will see the greater use of fast and less intrusive Covid-19 tests, more tightly scoped contact tracing and vaccinated and asymptomatic workers with the virus recovering in facilities in their dormitories.

The adjusted measures are in line with current Ministry of Health guidelines for the wider community, and are aimed at reducing disruption to workers' lives and work, MOM said in a statement.

Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference yesterday, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng noted that there have been more than 500 cases a day in the dormitories in recent days.

This is after months of near-zero cases in dormitories since last October.

"This is a result of the Delta variant being a lot more transmissible, and the dorms have not been insulated from the transmission of the virus. This is just like we have experienced in the community," he said.

But the vast majority of infected workers have very mild symptoms or none and do not require hospitalisation or oxygen support, he added. Instead, they have been able to recover very quickly on their own as more than 90 per cent of dorm residents have been fully vaccinated.

This is why MOM is now taking a different approach in managing infections in the dorms, said Dr Tan.

For instance, regular testing of migrant workers here will shift away from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for asymptomatic individuals to more self-administered but supervised antigen rapid tests (ARTs).

Contact-tracing rings will also be tightened to focus on those who are most at risk of being exposed to the virus, specifically roommates of Covid-19 cases confirmed by PCR tests.

Previously, entire blocks or sections within blocks could be quarantined when new cases were detected.

"This will enable us to further mitigate the risk of further transmissions in the dormitories in a more scalable and also more sustainable manner," Dr Tan said.

Fully vaccinated workers who test positive and have no symptoms will be allowed to isolate and recover in a dedicated facility within dormitories for up to 10 days.

They will have access to thermometers, oximeters for monitoring and telemedicine support.

They will be required to take an ART after the third day and will be discharged upon receiving a negative ART result.

Dr Tan stressed that migrant workers will continue to receive the appropriate medical care if and when required.

His ministry said there continues to be strong evidence that fully vaccinated individuals are protected against severe illness.

Of the infected migrant workers, 97 per cent of them had no symptoms. Of the 3 per cent who experienced symptoms, most were mild and a handful were sent to the hospital or community care facilities, said MOM.

None was in the intensive care unit and only one of them needed oxygen supplementation, it said.

Restrictions for migrant workers living in dorms have been gradually eased since last month. Dr Tan said a current pilot programme of weekly community visits for up to 500 migrant workers will continue.

"We will continue to watch the situation closely, and we will progressively ease measures (for migrant workers) where we are able to do so," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 03, 2021, with the headline 'Vaccinated workers with no symptoms can recover in dorms'. Subscribe