SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce expects most foreign worker dormitories to be cleared of the disease by the beginning of August.
Co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a press briefing on Friday (Jul 24) that all dormitories will be cleared of COVID-19 by the end of the first week of next month, with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in eight purpose-built dormitories that serve as quarantine facilities.
These blocks house 28,000 workers who will still be serving out their isolation period. This is the last batch of workers to complete their isolation period. They will be tested by the end of the first week of August, Mr Wong said.
The Ministry of Health said in a separate press release that this batch of workers comes from dormitories with a relatively high prevalence of COVID-19, and so to expect the daily case counts to remain high for the next two weeks before the numbers taper down.
Last week, Mr Wong said the multi-ministry taskforce expected most foreign workers to be tested by mid-August.
On Friday, Mr Wong said the authorities will work with employers to get workers back to the worksite soon, with all the requisite measures in place.
"We will be working very closely with all the companies who are engaging these workers to allow them to start work ... as soon as possible," said Mr Wong.
"So we would expect companies to be getting ready ... so that ... by August, when the vast majority of workers are clear, the companies will be ready with all the safe management practices at the worksite, and we'll be able to resume work."
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Mr Wong also said daily case counts in Singapore will come down by the middle of August.
"If we look at the overall situation with the dormitories ... being cleared by the first week of (August) - (and) largely with the community situation under control - we can expect our overall cases, the daily cases that we report every day, (to) come down by around the middle of August," he said.
"You won't see these large numbers anymore because we will have largely completed the clearing of the dormitories; but I must again remind everyone just because the case count comes down, that shouldn't be a reason for us to go out to celebrate and to, you know, have a big party."
He pointed that even after the workers return to work, they will be regularly tested and monitored closely. New infections will likely emerge “from time to time”, he added.
“And if we … identify any positive case, we will have to go in quickly again do our usual operations, ring-fence areas, stop work even, and then do a sweep and aggressive testing around all the close contacts.
“So for the contractors who are very keen and I’m sure eagerly waiting to resume work … I will also remind all of them to take the safe management practices very seriously.”
Mr Wong said that the process of putting the workers into different housing arrangements such as moving some of them to quick build dormitories will continue beyond August.
The quick build dormitories, which were announced in June, are progressively being built, Mr Wong said, but there is no timeline at the moment when the workers will be moved to these facilities.
Watch the full press conference: