COVID-19: Authorities monitoring migrant worker dorms to manage risk of outbreaks after new cases reported

COVID-19: Authorities monitoring migrant worker dorms to manage risk of outbreaks after new cases reported

A migrant worker living in a factory-converted dormitory locks the gate of their dormitory as they
A migrant worker living in a factory-converted dormitory locks the gate of their dormitory as they serve stay-home notices during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE: Authorities are monitoring migrant worker dormitories to manage the risk of new COVID-19 outbreaks, even after the completion of testing for all these workers.

"There have already been instances where new cases of COVID-19 cases are detected at previously cleared dormitories," said a joint news release on Tuesday (Aug 11) by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

"The Interagency Task Force (ITF) is actively monitoring the dormitories to manage the risk of new outbreaks."

CNA has contacted MOM for details on the dormitories with new COVID-19 cases.

SAFEGUARDS TO MANAGE RISK OF NEW OUTBREAKS IN DORMS

Setting out several measures to minimise the risk of infections, the authorities said workers are required to report their temperature and if they have any symptoms of acute respiratory illness through the FWMOMCare app twice a day.

Authorities said they will “monitor closely” the number of migrant workers who report sick at the medical posts, as an early indication of any possible infections.

"If our monitoring picks up potential infections among the migrant workers, the ITF will quickly isolate and quarantine all at-risk workers within the block that was housing the infected worker as a precautionary measure," said the authorities.

"Aggressive testing will be conducted to identify any further spread of the virus."

Workers who have recovered for fewer than 90 days will not need to be isolated as current medical evidence suggests that they continue to have immunity, said the authorities.

“Those who have recovered for more than 90 days from their original illness will be clinically assessed as to whether they will require repeat testing and isolation, if they develop fresh respiratory symptoms," they added.

READ: A timeline: Singapore’s biggest COVID-19 cluster at S11 dormitory closes

READ: Foreign worker dormitory linked to more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases among 9 more clusters closed

At higher risk dormitories, wastewater will be monitored for traces of the coronavirus.

In addition, workers in higher risk settings will be put through regular routine testing. These include workers in the construction, marine and process sectors, who are required to go for a swab test every 14 days.

“Workers who were infected previously and have recovered from COVID-19 are not required to undergo regular testing for 180 days," said the authorities.

“Employers should space out the testing of their workers over the 14-day period to ensure that we are able to maintain constant surveillance of the COVID-19 situation among the workers."

They can book appointment slots using the Swab Registration System launched by HPB.

READ: More wastewater testing under way in Singapore to tackle COVID-19; pilot launched at foreign worker dormitories

Cases in the dormitories make up the majority of Singapore's COVID-19 infections.

“With more daily movements in and out of the dormitories, it is even more important for everyone to remain vigilant to guard against new infections," the authorities said.

MOM DECLARES ALL DORMITORIES CLEARED OF COVID-19

In a separate statement later on Tuesday, MOM said that all dormitories have been declared cleared of COVID-19, with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in purpose-built dormitories that are being used as quarantine facilities.

This means that all workers living in dormitories have either recovered or have been tested to be free from the virus, except for 22,500 workers still serving out their quarantine period, said MOM.

In a separate update on Tuesday night, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that a further 37 dormitories had been cleared of COVID-19, and now house only recovered individuals and those who have recently tested negative for COVID-19.

"As such, the clusters have now been closed," the ministry added.

READ: Singapore reports lowest number of daily COVID-19 cases in more than 4 months, with 61 infections

Upon being declared clear of COVID-19, dormitory residents will be able to resume work once dormitory operators, employers and workers have made the necessary preparations to do so in a safe manner, MOM said.

"With the completion of dormitory clearance, and BCA giving permission for all construction firms to resume work from Aug 10, the majority of foreign workers (including dormitory residents) are now able to resume work," the labour ministry added.

BCA on Monday gave all construction firms employing foreign workers permission to resume work without applying to the authority for approval, unless the workers are deployed to perform work at construction sites or supply works premises.

As of Tuesday, 81 per cent of all workers in the construction, marine shipyard and process industries – or 315,000 workers – have a "green access code", meaning they are able to resume work, said MOM.

This is compared to 48 per cent of such workers on Jul 21, and 68 per cent one week ago.

Among dormitory residents in the construction, marine shipyard and process industries, 78 per cent – or 224,000 workers – are able to resume work as of Tuesday.

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Source: CNA/aa/dv(gs)(nc)

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