COVID-19: Singapore isolates construction workers to battle surging infections

A Manpower Ministry official checks for safe-distancing compliance in a photo dated April 17, 2020. Photo: Ministry of Manpower/Facebook
A Manpower Ministry official checks for safe-distancing compliance in a photo dated April 17, 2020. Photo: Ministry of Manpower/Facebook

Update: Singapore reported a surge of 1,426 new infections on Monday afternoon.

Singapore’s construction workers began two weeks at home today as total confirmed infections in the country jumped by more than a thousand to cross the 6,000-mark. 

If you’ve been made dizzy by the series of updates over the weekend, we’ve summed them up below:

Infections blow past 6,000

The city-state has so far reported 6,588 cases and 11 deaths since the outbreak began in January, making it first in Southeast Asia in known infections. The government has also made the controversial decision to separate tallies for migrant workers and Singaporean citizens and permanent residents, which it has begun referring to as the “community.” 

Around 5,000 of all confirmed cases involve migrant workers, 4,706 of which live in dormitory-style housing, according to the Health Ministry’s latest situation report. At least 30 dormitories have now been hit by the virus, 12 of which have been put on lockdown. 

The S11 Dormitory @ Punggol remains the most hit by COVID-19 with 1,508 cases as of this morning, followed by the Sungei Tengah Lodge with 521 and Tuas View Dormitory with 265 cases. 

Construction workers begin two-week quarantine

The Ministry of Manpower said Saturday that the majority of cases linked to migrant workers are among those working in construction who have been transmitting it at job sites. 

This led to a ministry decision to order all work permit holders and S Pass holders in the construction sector to stay home today through May 4 “to ensure that there is no further interactions between the workers and those outside their residential premises.”

The coronavirus had spread to at least two construction sites in Singapore. Sixty-eight cases have been linked to the Project Glory site in the Central Business District at 50 Market Street, and another 37 cases have been linked to the Kenyon/UBS site at 9 Penang Road. 

Employers are expected to ensure the well-being of workers on home quarantine, such as providing meals. 

Ever since the virus exposed the poor living conditions of migrant workers at dormitories, the Manpower Ministry has been posting public updates about its efforts to clean up the spaces and provide better standards of food to the workers in sequestered dormitories. There has not been any discussion of holding the dorms’ private management companies responsible for conditions at their facilities. 

There have also been efforts to free up space in the cramped dormitories to allow safe distancing between residents, including moving those deemed healthy to other venues such as vacant public housing blocks in Bukit Merah, army camps, floating facilities, and sports halls. 

The Singapore Tourism Board said Friday it is also assessing some cruise ships to see if they could be used as temporary accommodation for some migrant workers. 

Undetected infections among Singaporeans/PRs

While Singapore struggles to provide safe distancing among the workers, the Health Ministry said that the ongoing virtual lockdown appears to have succeeded in slowing the spread of COVID-19 among Singaporeans and permanent residents. But it also noted that there may be undetected infections. 

“We are particularly concerned that it is increasingly difficult to link the new cases and identify the source of infection,” the Health Ministry said Friday night. “In fact, the number of unlinked cases in the community has increased slightly, from an average of 19 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 22 per day in the past week.

“We have an ongoing surveillance programme, where a small sample of patients at our primary care facilities are tested for COVID-19 infections. We have picked up some cases through these tests, which is an indication of undetected cases in the community.”

Here’s a list of the dormitories affected as of this morning:

  1. S11 Dormitory @ Punggol: 1,508
  2. Sungei Tengah Lodge: 521
  3. Tuas View Dormitory: 265
  4. Mandai Lodge I: 170
  5. Westlite Toh Guan: 144
  6. Kranji Lodge I: 114
  7. Toh Guan Dormitory: 100
  8. Cochrane Lodge I: 91
  9. Acacia Lodge: 87
  10. Cochrane Lodge II: 78
  11. Tampines Dormitory: 77
  12. Jurong Penjuru Dormitory: 61
  13. Westlite Mandai: 57
  14. PPT Lodge 1A: 56
  15. North Coast Lodge: 51
  16. Shaw Lodge: 50
  17. Tech Park Crescent dormitory: 44
  18. Cassia @ Penjuru: 29
  19. Home Stay Lodge: 28
  20. The Leo Dormitory: 24
  21. Avery Lodge Dormitory: 24
  22. Tuas South Dormitory: 23
  23. Changi Lodge II: 21
  24. Kranji Dormitory: 20
  25. Woodlands Lodge I: 12
  26. SJ Dormitory: 15
  27. Westlite Woodlands: 15
  28. Kian Teck Dormitory: 8
  29. 10 Kian Teck Crescent Dormitory: 6
  30. 85 Kallang Dormitory: 8
  31. CDPL Tuas Dormitory: 5

Other stories you should see:

Filthy, cramped dorms come to light as virus afflicts Singapore’s migrant workers
Singapore commuters packed into trains after services cut to save money (Photos)
Singapore’s COVID-snitches harass and shame strangers in racially charged videos

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