SINGAPORE: About half of the unlinked COVID-19 community cases detected after the "circuit breaker" was lifted are from the construction sector or linked to construction-related activities, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (Jul 7).
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Wong told reporters that about 60 per cent of the community cases since Phase 1 of Singapore's reopening are linked cases, while about 40 per cent are unlinked.
The vast majority of the unlinked cases that were from the construction sector were identified through "active surveillance", he added.
"In other words, our proactive testing and periodic testing of construction workers every 14 days, it's because we have put in place this regime, that's why we are able to identify these workers and pick them up," said Mr Wong.
About two-thirds of these foreign workers tested positive from serology tests, which means that they are "older infections" and not recent ones, he added.
"This is not surprising, in a way, because we have just come off a period where we have had a very high incidence of infection in the entire construction industry."
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However, he added that the "continued high incidence of positive COVID-19 results" among construction workers "reminds us of the need to stay vigilant for this sector".
To tackle this, two things need to be done: First, to be "very rigorous" in the clearing of dormitories, and second, to make sure that the contractors put in place new safe management practices.
"It takes time to do this, and we hear from time to time contractors asking us to just release the workers, insisting that it's okay. But we have to take the extra precautions to make sure that the clearance is done rigorously, before we can allow these workers to go back to work," said Mr Wong.
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Construction activities are by nature "high-touch" and "high-interaction", with workers from different areas coming together and interacting closely at worksites or in enclosed spaces, said Mr Wong.
"That's why it's important for contractors to have all the safe management practices in place - split team arrangements, and then housing arrangements for the workers - before work can resume," he said.
He added that the multi-ministry task force has been "engaging the industry very closely" and providing additional support to prepare contractors for the restart and resumption of construction activities.
There were more than 45,000 COVID-19 cases in Singapore as of noon on Tuesday. A total of 157 new infections were reported on Tuesday, including 20 cases in the community.
Watch the full news conference and Q&A session: