SINGAPORE: Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Apr 14) thanked foreign workers for their hard work in Singapore and their cooperation as the country fights to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a video, Mrs Teo extended her Tamil New Year greetings to foreign workers in Singapore, wishing them good health.
"Today is the start of the new year for you, but it is difficult to celebrate without family and friends," said Mrs Teo in the video.
"The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all of us, but I know it is especially hard for you. I want to thank you for all your hard work in Singapore and for your cooperation during this period.
"On behalf of all Singaporeans, I wish you good health in the new year. Stay safe for your families, stay safe for your friends," she said.
READ: Singapore is paying 'close attention' to welfare of foreign workers amid COVID-19 outbreak: PM Lee
Ministry of Communications and Information of Mr Iswaran, who also appeared in the video, also paid tribute to foreign workers for their contribution to Singapore’s development and growth.
Amid COVID-19, Mr Iswaran said he understood the foreign workers’ concerns about their wages and that is why the government is working with their employers to ensure that they will continue to be paid in this period.
“We are also making arrangements to ensure that you get the necessary healthcare and also the services for food and for your accommodation, and also for the larger needs in terms of IT and Wi-Fi connectivity so that you can stay connected to your families,” he added.
Singapore has put in place strict safe distancing measures during what it calls a circuit breaker period to stem the spread of COVID-19. The measures - which include shutting down non-essential workplaces and schools - will be in place for one month until May 4.
A large number of Singapore's recent COVID-19 cases have been from foreign worker dormitories.
Several dormitories have been declared as isolation areas, meaning residents have to be quarantined in their rooms.
Concerns have been raised about the welfare of foreign workers in dormitories, and the ability of dorm operators to implement COVID-19 safe distancing measures, with photos and videos circulating online of crowded and unsanitary conditions.
The Ministry of Manpower has since stepped in to help manage the situation - saying it has ensured better distribution and quality of meals, as well as improved waste management and hygiene conditions.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Sunday that the Government has short-term and long-term plans in place to improve conditions at foreign worker dormitories.
In the immediate term, the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force has set up a special group to look at the measures needed for foreign worker dormitories, said Mr Heng.
This includes raising standards of cleanliness and hygiene and reducing the concentration of foreign workers in the dormitories, said Mr Heng, adding that authorities are looking into housing foreign workers in other facilities.
Mr Iswaran said on Tuesday that the implementation of circuit breaker measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 had imposed much inconvenience and challenges for all, but that it was important for everyone to work together.
“It is important that all of us whether we are citizens, permanent residents, or workers from overseas like you, that we all come together and do our part so that we can overcome this challenge,” he said.
He wished them a Happy New Year, Happy Vishu and Happy Vaisakhi.