Migrant workers with COVID-19 symptoms isolated before getting tested to prevent potential transmission

Migrant workers with COVID-19 symptoms isolated before getting tested to prevent potential transmission

Tampines Dormitory 03
Healthcare workers at Tampines Dormitory on Monday (Apr 20). The dorm has been declared an isolation area to curb the spread of COVID-19.  (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Migrant workers living in dormitories who present symptoms of COVID-19 are isolated before they are tested to prevent the virus from potentially spreading to others, said the Ministry of Health’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak during a media briefing on Tuesday (Apr 28). 

He was responding to a question about whether workers who are isolated without being tested first will be part of the official count of COVID-19 patients. 

The current strategy is to isolate and keep those who are possibly infected away from healthy roommates, said Associate Professor Mak, so that authorities are able to break the chain of transmission.

He acknowledged that the number of COVID-19 cases may be higher than what is stated in the official report - which includes confirmed and verified infections - but the suspected cases will eventually be tested to confirm if they are infected, or if they have recovered.

“The numbers will reconcile. It's not an issue of fudging, or dodging or trying to hide numbers," he said. "It is really a question of making sure that our priorities in testing match the needs that we have on the ground, and making sure that we report as transparently as we can.” 

Authorities will eventually test all of them, Assoc Prof Mak explained.

“There will always be a catch up (but) we will come around and make sure they are properly tested, because we want to know whether they do have (the) infection,” he added.

READ: COVID-19: 'Not true' Singapore has reduced testing among migrant workers, says Gan Kim Yong

It “makes a lot of sense” to isolate all symptomatic foreign workers in dormitories, said Assoc Prof Mak.

This is because in dormitories where the rate of infection is very high, almost every symptomatic person would eventually turn out to be a COVID-19 case, he explained, adding that the rate of infection can vary “quite significantly” among the various dormitories.

In dormitories where there are fewer cases, officials are trying to test more to find out what the level of infection is, he said, as it is easier to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in these premises. 

The majority of the workers who have tested positive are “very very well”, most with minimal symptoms, said Assoc Prof Mak. “There isn't really much else we need to do other than the monitoring that we in fact put in place," he added.

Authorities also announced that there are plans to double the bed capacity at community care facilities to 20,000 by the end of June.

READ: COVID-19: More than 18,000 bed spaces for isolation and care needs, with 23,000 more in pipeline

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore stands as 14,951 as of noon on Tuesday, after 528 new cases were reported - most of them are work permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories.

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Source: CNA/hw(gs)

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