SINGAPORE: The Inter-agency Task Force will set up on-site Community Care Facilities (CCFs) within the most affected dormitories for COVID-19 positive migrant workers who are clinically well or display mild symptoms, the authorities said on Friday (May 1).
These patients will be moved to the CCFs almost immediately after diagnosis instead of waiting to be transferred to an off-site medical facility, they said. Off-site CCFs are set up in locations such as D’Resort, Singapore Expo and Changi Exhibition Centre.
On-site Community Recovery Facilities (CRFs) will similarly be set up to look after patients who are no longer infectious and are transferred out of the CCFs.
“After the workers recover, our aim is to help them stay healthy and enable them to work when their employers resume business,” said the task force, which is in charge of handling the COVID-19 outbreak in dormitories.
These new steps were announced in a media statement which detailed a range of measures designed to look after foreign workers.
The number of COVID-19 cases among migrant workers living in dormitories has surged in recent weeks, and make up the bulk of the daily infection count.
At a press conference held on the same day, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that many of the measures put in place have shown some progress.
"The number of new cases in the community has come down. However, the number of new infections in our dormitories remains a challenge," he said.
SOME RECOVERED WORKERS TO RETURN TO DORMITORIES
Some of the recovered workers will return to their dormitories, and the task force will designate specific Blocks for Recovered Workers (BRWs) within these dormitories to house the workers.
These BRWs will be thoroughly disinfected before the recovered workers move in, the task force said.
Within the BRWs, workers must observe enhanced safe distancing measures, and inter-mingling with residents of other blocks will be strictly prohibited. The task force will work with dormitory operators to progressively create more BRWs, as part of the preparations to enable the dormitory population to eventually resume work safely, it said.
The recovery plan will require dormitory operators to relocate some residents.
"We seek the cooperation of employers and workers so that the on-site CCFs, CRFs and BRWs can be set up quickly," the task force said.
Speaking at the press conference, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that this phase of taking care of the foreign workers as they recover will be an "enormous challenge".
"Many workers will be rehoused, and they will have to get used to new friends. Many employers will have to adjust to their workers being in different locations with new arrangements," she said.
"We will have to develop new strategies to monitor the health of the workers, This is a very important aspect of the recovery phase."
She added that the the Inter-agency Task Force is focused on getting this job done right.
"The scale and the speed of the response is unprecedented. And it's critical that we get this phase done well, so that work, and business can resume safely," she said.
For dormitories that are less affected, the task force will adopt a combination of approaches including aggressive swabbing to contain the infections and isolation strategies.
"These will also better enable the resident workers to eventually be able to resume work safely," the task force said.
ENSURING WORKERS' HEALTH
To better support the healthcare needs of workers at Factory-Converted Dormitories, the task force provides additional medical posts at foreign workers’ Recreation Centres.
These medical posts serve a combined catchment of 760 Factory-Converted Dormitories housing about 65,000 workers. They are managed by private healthcare groups, such as Raffles Medical Group, ParkwayHealth and AcuMed Medical Group.
Two medical posts at Kranji and Tuas South Recreation Centres have started operations, and are being equipped with isolation facilities to hold patients while awaiting swab results. There have been more than over 750 patients at these posts since mid-April. Two more such posts will be set up at Woodlands and Kaki Bukit Recreation Centres in the coming week.
More than 50 medical personnel have also been deployed in 12 mobile medical teams to support Singapore's migrant workers. The teams visit Factory-Converted Dormitories with a special focus on those with higher incidence of confirmed COVID-19 cases. They also provide care and treatment for workers housed in construction temporary quarters.
The task force will soon offer free shuttle services to provide a safe mode of transport for workers in these Factory-Converted Dormitories to visit the medical posts, Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) or polyclinics.
Dormitory operators will be given a list of transport providers contracted by MOM to take the workers to the nearest medical post. This is to minimise the risk of cross-infection in both directions if the workers were to share other forms of transport with the broader community. The drivers will be trained and provided with Personal Protection Equipment.
In addition, the task force said it will ramp up the use of medical technologies to enable more effective medical monitoring of the residents. Examples include pulse oximeters that can measure oxygen saturation and pulse rates.
“This enables workers to check on their own condition, and call for medical assistance if readings cross certain predetermined thresholds,” the task force said.
Telemedicine providers for consultations during non-office hours, to complement the coverage of the medical posts.
BETTER FOOD, TIMELY SALARIES
The task force also gave an update on the provision of meals to 43 purpose-built dormitories. More than 10 million meals have been served, with special meal runs for residents observing Ramadan.
Meal delivery timings have improved, with meals served between 30 minutes to an hour after they arrive at the purpose-built dormitories.
Quality is also taken care of, the task force said.
“We have been working closely with dormitory operators and caterers to fine-tune the operational details for the entire process, from when the food is dispatched from the caterer’s kitchen, to how the meals are effectively distributed across individual dormitories and workers,” it said.
The task force said it has been conducting taste tests with different groups of workers to ensure that the food suited their tastes, as the workers come from different countries. Residents’ can also purchase items from the dormitory mini-marts through online orders and delivery of goods. Wi-Fi access has also been enabled across the dormitories and more than 200,000 data SIM cards have been distributed to the workers. More than 300 Tamil and Hindi movies channels are available for free viewing.
MOM has been proactively engaging employers to ensure that their migrant workers continue to be paid their salaries on time, and electronically.
About 300 employers indicated that they owed salaries to their workers. MOM is actively tracking and engaging these employers to ensure that they eventually make payments to the workers. Seven employers are reportedly in financial difficulties and may not be able to pay their workers. For such cases, the Migrant Workers’ Assistance Fund will step in to provide relief.
The task force also facilitated access to remittance services, both physical and digital, so that workers can continue to remit money back to their families.
Singapore has reported more than 17,000 COVID-19 cases to date, with the majority linked to foreign worker dormitories. Fifteen people have died.
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