Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions are beginning to loosen for some of the 300,000-plus migrant workers still confined in their dormitories as Singapore moves closer to declaring them virus-free.
As of yesterday, 180,000 of the workers had been given the green light to resume work in the construction, marine shipyard, and process sectors. Starting today, those residing in already-cleared dormitories may go out for essential errands provided their employers or dorm operators submit details to the Manpower Ministry.
The easing of confinement measures comes amid signs of mounting despair. There have been a spate of recent incidents, including a man who allegedly survived slitting his own throat Sunday morning at a dormitory in Sungei Kadut.
On the same weekend, a man was filmed on the ledge of The Leo dormitory in Kaki Bukit. Reports said that dormitory staff were able to calm him down and bring him back to safety. A similar scene played out late last month in Punggol, involving a Chinese worker whose employer had not cooperated with his desire to fly home.
The Ministry of Manpower announced yesterday that nearly nine in 10, or about 273,000, of all such dormitory residents have been confirmed free from the virus. They can resume work once the necessary paperwork has been approved.
The ministry also said that 127 more dormitories were declared clear of COVID-19, bringing the number of COVID-free residences to nearly 1,200, though most remain on lockdown. The ministry regularly posts status updates about the dormitories on its website.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced a full lockdown of worker dormitories on April 21, weeks after nine dormitories were gazetted as isolation areas amid a surge of infections starting with S11 in Punggol and Westlite in Toh Guan. The ministry has said that it expected all 300,000-plus workers to be tested by early August.
Singapore continues to report hundreds of new COVID-19 cases every day. There were 295 new cases yesterday, mostly involving dormitory residents, pushing the total number of reported cases to 53,346.
Not all migrant workers live in dormitories. Some live in shophouses or private and public housing. Dormitory residents considered healthy and employed in “essential” sectors have been housed in separate facilities to prevent them from contracting the disease.
According to December statistics, Singapore’s foreign workforce population was about 1.4 million, including professional-class workers earning at least S$3,900 a month. More than 290,000 held work permits in the construction sector.
This article, Nearly 9 in 10 of Singapore’s dorm residents free of COVID-19: Manpower Ministry, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.