SINGAPORE: Migrant workers residing in some dormitories that have been cleared of COVID-19 will be able to apply for exit passes to leave their dormitories and visit recreation centres on their rest days from August.
In "small-scale trials" starting this month, residents from selected cleared dormitories can apply to visit recreation centres on their rest days for personal errands such as buying groceries, SIM cards and remitting money, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said on Wednesday (Aug 12).
This follows MOM's announcement on Tuesday 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.
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As all dormitories have been declared cleared of COVID-19, "the next step is to work towards allowing dormitory residents to leave for leisure and personal errands, while keeping them safe from COVID-19", MOM said in a joint statement with industry associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Wednesday.
Migrant workers had been required to stay within their dormitories on their rest days in Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening.
"MOM recognises that such social activity is important for the mental well-being of the residents. The eventual goal is to allow residents from cleared dorms to enjoy their rest days without movement restrictions," said the ministry.
"We will move towards this goal in a measured way because we need to ensure that the residents and the broader community are kept safe and healthy."
"We also bear in mind the lessons learnt from other countries’ reopenings that led to new waves of COVID-19 infection," it added.
TIMED EXIT PASSES FOR RECREATION CENTRES
To reduce crowding outside the dormitories on rest days, residents' exits will be spread out across each day, said MOM. This will be done by requiring residents to apply for an exit pass for a specific timeslot through the SGWorkPass app.
Residents must meet all the following criteria to be granted an exit pass:
- Have recovered from COVID-19 or obtained a negative swab test result within 14 days prior to the exit date.
- Not on quarantine order or stay-home notice.
- Stay in a dormitory that has been cleared of COVID-19.
- Have installed and registered the TraceTogether app.
- Choose an exit pass timeslot with available vacancies.
Dormitory operators and employers cannot disallow workers with an exit pass to leave their dormitory to go to the recreation centre, added MOM.
"The trials will allow us to refine the exit pass arrangements so as to progressively ramp up the number of participating dormitories over the next two months," said the ministry.
MOM added that it aims to have all dormitory residents able to apply for exit passes to visit recreation centres in October, with details to be announced in due course.
CNA has contacted MOM for details on the selected dormitories involved in the trial exit pass system.
NO EXIT PASSES NEEDED FOR ESSENTIAL ERRANDS
In addition, workers who stay in dormitories that are declared cleared of COVID-19 and who are not serving a quarantine order or stay-home notice can leave their dormitories to run essential errands without the need for an exit pass.
However, their employers or dormitory operators must submit the workers' personal particulars and details of the essential errands to MOM.
The list of essential errands is limited to work pass-related errands (for example, submitting and endorsing documents and capturing biometrics), medical appointments, dental appointments, banking services and court hearings.
If workers need to leave their dormitories for any other urgent personal matters not specified on this list, they must seek permission from MOM to do so, said the ministry.
STAGGERED REST DAYS
To further reduce crowding, staggered rest days will be implemented for work permit and work pass holders in the construction and marine shipyard sectors, authorities said in separate statements on Wednesday.
Some workers in the construction sector are deployed to projects that do not operate on Sundays, said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and MOM.
These include projects subject to the National Environment Agency's no-work rule or involving renovation of residential premises.
Workers deployed to these projects will therefore need to rest on Sundays, while workers deployed to other construction projects and in the marine shipyard sector will be assigned rest days between Monday and Saturday, said the authorities.
"We also welcome community and NGO efforts to expand programmes and initiatives in the dormitories so that there are more options for the residents during their rest day," said MOM.
STATUS OF WORKERS MOVING TO BEDOK WORKSITE
News of the pilot programme came after Aljunied Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament-elect Gerald Giam gave an update on workers who were moving to a makeshift dormitory at a Bedok worksite.
Mr Giam wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday that 40 foreign workers would be moving to temporary living quarters at 50 Bedok Reservoir Crescent, a construction site for an upcoming special education school.
READ: 40,000 foreign workers can resume renovation, certain types of work without needing BCA approval
The workers will be required to live on-site until the project finishes in the third quarter of next year, he said, adding that they currently live in a separate dormitory that requires them to travel to the construction site every day.
The post prompted an uproar among Facebook users, who commented on it assuming that the workers would be confined inside their accommodation until the project ends.
On Wednesday evening, MOM released a statement on Facebook on the workers’ housing arrangements.
“Members of the media have asked MOM whether workers moving into temporary living quarters at a construction site in Bedok can leave the dorm for leisure purposes,” MOM said.
“Like workers in other cleared dorms, they can already leave to attend to essential errands,” said the ministry.
In his post, Mr Giam said that the workers will be housed in quarters with not more than 10 people per room.
“Their meals will be provided for and they will have Wi-Fi access to communicate with friends and family,” Mr Giam added.
“Although Bedok Reservoir residents won't get a chance to meet these foreign workers in person, I hope the community can join me in thanking them for the work that they do for us.”