COVID-19: Two former school sites to be converted into temporary dorms for migrant workers who are well
SINGAPORE: The former Hong Kah Secondary School and Bedok North Secondary School sites are among “a number” of Ministry of Education (MOE) sites that will be used as temporary facilities to house migrant workers "who are well", said the ministry on Friday (May 22).
To manage the sites, the Education Ministry has set up a Dormitory Task Force that comprises officers from MOE and Outward Bound Singapore (OBS).
“Each temporary dormitory will have a team of MOE or OBS officers to ensure that the basic needs, safety and well-being of the migrant workers are met,” said an MOE spokesperson in response to CNA queries.
“In addition, they ensure that health and safety protocols are adhered to, to mitigate the risk of transmission.”
Singapore has reported 29,812 COVID-19 cases to date, with the majority linked to migrant worker dormitories. Twenty-three patients have died from complications arising from COVID-19 infection.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced in April that migrant workers who were not sick and were working in essential services would be housed separately from those in dormitories, in a bid to curb the spread of the outbreak.
Military camps, Changi Exhibition Centre, vacant HDB flats and offshore floating lodging were among the sites identified as potential accommodation.
Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the Bedok North Secondary School site had been activated as a temporary dormitory for migrant workers who provide essential services.
He said he had spoken to the assigned dormitory manager for the site, who is part of the OBS team. The site was still being prepared, said Mr Singh, adding that workers would start moving in shortly.
MOE DORMITORY TASK FORCE TO MANAGE THE SITES
The Bedok North Secondary School site has enough space for about 400 workers, Mr Singh wrote.
While the workers are staying at the site, employers “will be made responsible” for their upkeep and will arrange for groceries where required, Mr Singh added.
Members of the Dormitory Task Force will work in shifts to manage the sites and will not live on-site, MOE clarified.
Mr Singh had said earlier that the task force members would live on-site, but has since updated his post.
The site, which sits at the junction of Jalan Damai and Kaki Bukit Avenue 1, has not been in use since Bedok North Secondary School merged with Damai Secondary School in 2018.
Earlier in May, the Singapore Land Authority announced that the former Ngee Ann Polytechnic staff apartments at 90, 92 and 94 Kismis Avenue and the former Nexus International School at 201 Ulu Pandan Road would be used to house healthy migrant workers in essential services.
The two sites have a capacity of up to 1,000 beds each.
“The plan is for buses to move into the school to pick up and disembark the workers each morning and evening (or as their shifts determine) so as not to clog up Jalan Damai with traffic. Workers will have to abide by strict entry and exit protocols at the temporary dormitory,” wrote Mr Singh, who is the Member of Parliament representing the Eunos division within the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency.
“The residential protocol, as of now, requires workers to return to the dormitory immediately after work. They are not allowed to leave the premises upon return.”
The completed rooms have beds and cupboards “at a safe distance”, and there is a water dispenser and Wi-Fi point in each room, Mr Singh noted.
Additional piping and showers have been installed in toilet cubicles “as school toilets are not commonly outfitted with showers”.
According to the Education Ministry, the renovation works to prepare the sites are carried out by “contractors who have existing contracts with MOE”, and these works include the installation of partitions and shower facilities.
“As the identified sites have different facilities, the number of occupants they can house and the works required to prepare the sites will vary,” said the spokesperson.
“The facilities at all sites will comply with national guidelines on safe distancing and movement control measures, to ensure the safety and well-being of workers and on-site staff.”
The existing MOE contractors are from the construction sector, said the ministry. Since setting up temporary dormitories is “essential to the national effort” of curbing the spread of COVID-19, the contractors and their workers have been approved to carry out the renovation works.
“To minimise the risk of transmission, all migrant workers will be swabbed for COVID-19 and must test negative before they are cleared to work,” said the ministry.
Calling for Eunos residents to extend their “full support”, Mr Singh said in his post that he was heartened to hear of the partnership between MOE and OBS.
“I understand some of you may have questions on the activation of Bedok North Secondary School as a temporary dormitory. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I will do my best to give you as much information as I can on this matter,” he wrote.
“In the event I do not have the information you require, I will seek the same from MOE or the relevant authorities.”