Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Migrant worker dorms thinned out, fewer blocks gazetted as isolation areas

Purpose-built dorms such as the one below now house some 160,000 workers, down from 212,000 in April. Meanwhile, Quick Build Dorms like these in Choa Chu Kang (left) are part of efforts to rehouse some of the workers.
Purpose-built dorms such as the one above now house some 160,000 workers, down from 212,000 in April. Meanwhile, Quick Build Dorms like these in Choa Chu Kang are part of efforts to rehouse some of the workers.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR, KHALID BABA
Purpose-built dorms such as the one below now house some 160,000 workers, down from 212,000 in April. Meanwhile, Quick Build Dorms like these in Choa Chu Kang (left) are part of efforts to rehouse some of the workers.
Quick Build Dorms like these in Choa Chu Kang (above) are part of efforts to rehouse some of the workers.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR, KHALID BABA

Purpose-built dorm occupancy falls 25% from April; 40% of isolation areas no longer gazetted as such

The concentration of migrant workers in dormitories has been thinned out significantly, and large sections of dorms are no longer gazetted as isolation areas.

Purpose-built dorms, the largest sites for housing migrant workers, have seen a 25 per cent drop in occupancy.

They now house some 160,000 workers, down from 212,000 in April, said the Manpower and National Development ministries.

In a joint reply to queries from The Straits Times, the ministries said this is because over the last few months, some workers have been moved out of their dormitories to other accommodation, such as government temporary sites or new temporary living quarters.

Separately, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said 71 blocks from 14 dorms are no longer deemed isolation areas as of July 19, while 105 blocks in 22 dorms remain gazetted.

This means 40 per cent of 176 blocks in 25 dorms, earlier gazetted as isolation areas, are no longer gazetted as such.

Controls on the movements of migrant workers as well as precautionary measures were strictly enforced in these isolation areas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus both within the dorms and to the wider community.

MOH said the degazetted dormitory blocks now house only recovered individuals and those who recently tested negative for Covid-19.

Control measures are in place to prevent occupants of these blocks from mingling with those in blocks that remain gazetted as isolation areas, it said.

In addition, only workers staying in the selected blocks are allowed to go to work, said MOH.

They also still have to report their health status daily, stagger the use of common facilities and minimise interactions with others living in different blocks.

The Ministry of Health said the degazetted dormitory blocks now house only recovered individuals and those who recently tested negative for Covid-19. Control measures are in place to prevent occupants of these blocks from mingling with those in blocks that remain gazetted as isolation areas, it said.

"We will continue to evaluate the situation in the dormitories, and more blocks will be progressively removed from this list (of gazetted dorms) to house more recovered foreign workers and those tested negative in the coming weeks," said MOH.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the multi-ministry Covid-19 task force, had said last Saturday that all dorms are expected to be cleared of Covid-19 by Aug 7, apart from 17 blocks.

These 17 blocks, which are in purpose-built dorms, are to serve as temporary quarantine facilities for workers still serving their isolation period. They will house about 28,000.

Workers who complete their isolation period will have to take an additional Covid-19 test.

Those who test negative can resume work if their employers meet safety requirements.

 
 
 

Apart from testing and clearing workers of Covid-19, three steps are mandated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to minimise the risk of new infection for any healthy worker to return to work.

The dorm operator must first arrange staggered pick-up and drop-off times for workers with their employers.

Employers must also confirm or update residential addresses of staff on the MOM database.

Workers themselves must download the TraceTogether app to facilitate contact tracing, and the FWMOMCare mobile app to update their health status and residence. These details must match their employer's and dormitory operator's records.

The workers also have to continue to follow measures that dormitory operators are required to implement, including wearing masks and practising safe distancing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2020, with the headline 'Worker dorms thinned out, fewer blocks gazetted as isolation areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe