Migrant workers in dormitories cleared of COVID-19 to have staggered rest days with time limit during Phase 2

Migrant workers in dormitories cleared of COVID-19 to have staggered rest days with time limit during Phase 2

Construction work can resume next Tuesday (Jun 2) after Singapore's "circuit breaker" period is lifted, but it is not likely to happen right away as firms struggle to fulfil requirements to restart. Cheryl Lin reports. 

SINGAPORE: Migrant workers living in dormitories that have been cleared of COVID-19 infections will be able to run errands outside their dormitories on staggered rest days and on time slots of up to two hours at a time. 

This would only take place under Phase 2 of Singapore's post-circuit breaker period, and when infection rates in the community and dormitories have been "sustained at low levels for a period of time", said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a media release on Saturday (May 30). 

Under Phase 1, which starts on Tuesday after Singapore exits its circuit breaker the day before, those living in cleared dormitories are only allowed to leave to go to work using designated transport provided by their employers. They must return to the dormitories after work, MOM said. 

READ: COVID-19: Movement in and out of dormitories to stop as all migrant workers to suspend work until May 4

On Apr 21, all migrant workers living in dormitories were told to stop work and were not allowed to move in and out of their dormitories until May 4. The restriction on daily movement was later extended until Jun 1. 

These measures were put in place to minimise the risk of further community transmission of COVID-19, according to authorities. 

READ: More than a third of Singaporean or PR COVID-19 cases in May linked to dormitory clusters

The inter-agency task force dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19 in dormitories will announce the first batch of cleared blocks or dormitories next week. A cleared dormitory is one where every block has been cleared.

The residents in cleared blocks or dormitories are either workers who had COVID-19 and have since recovered, or have been tested negative.

Tuas View Dormitory 19
Residents at Tuas View Dormitory standing along the common corridor on Wednesday (May 6). Tuas View Dormitory has been gazetted as an isolation area to curb the spread of COVID-19 (Photo: Jeremy Long)

MOM said on Saturday that eligible workers from cleared blocks or dormitories will be able to run errands outside the dormitories on their rest days during Phase 2.

"To minimise the risk of large group movements, they will do so on staggered rest days and at staggered timeslots," the ministry said. 

"A system will be introduced to enable eligible workers to apply for their preferred timeslots."

At the start, these workers will be able to leave the dormitories for up to two hours on their designated rest days to travel to one of eight recreation centres, said MOM.

The dormitories will have to provide dedicated transport - either on their own or in partnership with one another - to shuttle the workers to and from the recreation centres. Such arrangements will also be regularly reviewed, said the ministry. 

READ: Situation at larger foreign worker dormitories stable, but COVID-19 picture in smaller dorms ‘mixed’: Josephine Teo

ALLOWED TO GO TO WORK ONLY DURING PHASE 1

Under Phase 1, workers in cleared dormitories will not be able to leave their residence on their rest days and can only do so to go to work on designated transport provided by their employers.

"Their employers must ensure that they return to the dormitories immediately after they finish work," said MOM.

Employers will also have to make sure that all their workers living in the dormitories continue to have access to food and daily necessities, regardless of whether they are eligible to work.

READ: Recovered from COVID-19, migrant workers live on a cruise ship and in an HDB flat

READ: COVID-19: Singapore's recovered foreign workers to be housed on SuperStar cruise ships

Residents in cleared blocks have to remain within their block until a set of measures are put in place to ensure they can go back to work.

Dormitory operators must provide MOM with an up-to-date register of all residents in their dormitories, and implement tight entry and exit controls.

They should also limit "inter-mixing" and ensure that residential blocks are "physically segregated" from one another. There must also be sick bay beds and isolation facilities for quick containment if an infection is discovered.

Employers must update their workers' personal details on the Online Foreign Worker Address Service and show proof of approval that they can resume work.

Employers must also provide a list of workers to dormitory operators showing those who have been approved to start work. Staggered pick-up and drop-off time should also be arranged by the company. 

Cochrane Lodge 08
A dorm resident in Cochrane Lodge 2 gives a thumbs up. Cochrane Lodge 2 at Admiralty Road West has been gazetted as an isolation area to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

Workers will have to monitor their health and report their daily health status using an MOM app. This mobile app will update their location and mobile number. 

They will also have to download and activate the latest version of the TraceTogether app.

"Each worker’s address must be independently updated by the dormitory operator, employer and worker. If the worker’s address as reported by the three parties does not tally, it has to be rectified before the worker can resume work," said MOM. 

"This is to ensure future contact tracing efforts are not hampered and the health and safety of other dormitory residents compromised."

Dormitory operators are responsible in ensuring their residents comply with measures in the dormitory to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Workers who repeatedly break the rules may have their work passes revoked, MOM said.

READ: COVID-19: Battling fear and boredom, migrant workers grapple with isolation in dormitories

"MOM and relevant sector agencies will ensure that all measures laid out in the advisories are properly implemented before workers are allowed to exit the dormitory for work," the ministry added. 

"Depending on actual implementation of the measures, MOM may grant approval for specific cleared blocks or entire cleared dormitories. 

"A worker may only leave the dormitory for work if his employers has the necessary approvals from relevant Government agencies to resume business operations. 

"This calibrated approach to clearing and re-opening our dormitories is necessary to keep our workers and community safe."

Given the extensive preparations required, MOM expects dormitory operators, employers and workers to need about a week to implement the required measures before they can resume work. 

"If the requirements are met sooner, workers will be allowed to resume work earlier," said the ministry. 

"However, the focus should be to ensure that the preparations are done properly."

LONGER HOURS TO GO OUT DURING REST DAYS UNDER PHASE 3

Under Phase 3, rest days for migrant workers living in cleared dormitories will continue to be staggered, said MOM. 

Eligible workers will be able to leave the dormitories for longer duration and to more locations on these rest days, the ministry added.

READ: COVID-19: New app launched to help monitor and report migrant workers’ health status

MOM said that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore will require project owners in the construction, marine and process sectors to implement a system of staggered rest days for their work permit holders and S Pass holders.

Construction employers not linked to projects, such as incinerator plant maintenance contractors, will also be required to adopt staggered rest days.

MOM added that should dormitory residents eventually be able to go to places other than the recreation centres, the Government will assess the need "to regulate the flow of visitors to major congregation spots frequented by migrant workers on their rest days".

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Source: CNA/ad(mi)

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