SINGAPORE: About 100 new COVID-19 cases have been detected in migrant worker dormitories previously given the all clear from the virus, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (Aug 18).
They added that these cases were picked up through routine testing that is conducted biweekly, and that some of the workers had returned to their jobs.
"We have taken timely actions to contain and isolate the COVID-19 positive cases. We have also taken aggressive actions to contain, trace and isolate the close contacts," said the ministries in a joint reply to CNA's queries.
"To date, over 60 per cent of cases have been closed. The measures taken have resulted in effective containment with only small numbers of additional cases detected."
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As a result of the new cases, about 7,000 migrant workers were quarantined, and less than 2 per cent of them were found to have contracted the coronavirus, said MOM and MOH.
"These are being managed according to strict protocols and reinforced with more centralised quarantine facilities made available through the completion of dormitory clearance," they added.
It was announced last Wednesday that 800 migrant workers were "newly quarantined" after one COVID-19 case was discovered among them in a cleared dormitory.
The ministries said authorities have taken a "measured approach", placing immediate close contacts of the infected worker in a dedicated quarantine facility.
They added that residents in the cleared block of a purpose-built dormitory where the infected worker lived were all quarantined.
"When we detect a new COVID-19 positive case within a cleared site, we will promptly quarantine the entire block as a precautionary measure and conduct aggressive swabbing on all migrant workers in the block," said the ministries.
"We will rescind the quarantine subsequently for workers who are assessed to be not at risk," they added.
"While this approach could affect up to a few hundred migrant workers for each case, it ensures that we contain the detected case and minimise spreading that could end up affecting thousands others."
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PREVENTING A SECOND WAVE OF INFECTIONS IN CLEARED DORMS
In response to CNA's queries, MOH and MOM outlined the measures they are taking to prevent a second wave of infections in cleared dormitories.
Among them is the biweekly “rostered routine testing” through which the roughly 100 new COVID-19 cases were detected. The testing is done on migrant workers living in dormitories, workers at construction or production sites, as well as workers in the construction, marine and process sectors.
More than 100,000 migrant workers have started this routine testing, said the ministries on Tuesday.
Separately, the MOM, the Building and Construction Authority, the Economic Development Board and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) said in an update on Tuesday night that there are still 118,000 workers who need to undergo the routine testing but have yet to be scheduled.
It is the employer’s responsibility to schedule their migrant workers for routine tests. To date, about 15,000 employers, or 78 per cent, have done so via HPB's online Swab Registration System.
"Some employers have scheduled some, but not all of their workers, especially those who stay at recently cleared dormitories. Employers are reminded to quickly schedule their workers if they have not done so," the authorities said in a joint statement on Tuesday night.
They warned that going forward, workers who are required to undergo routine testing but fail to do so will have a Red AccessCode.
Migrant workers living in dormitories are grouped according to the type of industry they work in, said the ministries.
The inter-agency taskforce that was set up to support migrant workers and dormitory operators during this period will monitor the acute respiratory infection report sick rate, and wastewater is being tested to support monitoring and management of COVID-19.
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Contact tracing and "aggressive testing operations" will be done if a new case is detected.
"Sector agencies will work closely with the employers to assess the risk at the workplaces and put in place safety timeouts if necessary," the ministries added.
Immediate close contacts of positive cases will serve a 14-day quarantine at a dedicated facility, while other close contacts will be quarantined on-site to undergo tests to ensure that they are clear of COVID-19 before they return to work.
“The new infection cases in cleared dormitories and decant sites remind us on the need to be vigilant,” MOM and MOH said.
“Our priority will be to prevent and arrest new infections through early detection, timely containment and effective isolation," they added.
“Early detection allows us to take timely steps to contain, trace and isolate any new COVID-19 infections in cleared dormitories and decant sites.”
On Tuesday, Singapore reported 100 new COVID-19 cases, with most of the infections involving work permit holders currently under quarantine. Workers living in dormitories make up about 95 per cent of Singapore’s 55,938 infections.