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Only roommates of COVID-19 cases in dormitories to be quarantined; isolation period cut to 10 days

Only roommates of COVID-19 cases in dormitories to be quarantined; isolation period cut to 10 days
More than 90 per cent of migrant workers in dormitories have been vaccinated against COVID-19, says the Manpower Ministry. (File photo: TODAY/Raj Nadarajan)

SINGAPORE: With dormitories now "more resilient", only roommates of confirmed COVID-19 cases will be placed under a quarantine order, authorities said on Saturday (Oct 2).

Previously, workers in entire blocks or sections of dormitories could be quarantined when new cases are detected.

The revised policy will "reduce the extent and duration of work disruptions while protecting public health", said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a press release. 

"However, wider quarantine rings may still be applied to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the event of new large clusters," it said.

The isolation period for a case's roommates will also be reduced from 14 to 10 days from the date of last exposure to the confirmed case, with workers to self-administer antigen rapid tests (ARTs) from Day 11 to Day 14.

"The ARTs will be self-administered, but (workers) will have peer or dormitory operators' supervision. The workers in the dorms have been trained and instructional materials in their native languages have also been made available to all of them,” said Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng at a press conference with the multi-ministry task force on Saturday.

Other residents in the dormitory who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case may be issued with either a health risk warning or health risk alert via TraceTogether, and have to follow the Health Ministry's prevailing protocols.

REDUCING DISRUPTION FOR WORKERS

Adjustments will also be made in testing and recovering from COVID-19 for workers living in the dormitories.

First, MOM will progressively move towards the use of only ARTs for rostered routine testing among these workers. This comes after regular ARTs for workers, on top of their regular routine testing, were introduced on Sep 13. 

"Regular testing remains the cornerstone of our efforts to detect and isolate cases early," the ministry said.

"Dormitory residents with acute respiratory illness (ARI) symptoms should continue to report sick at one of the regional medical centres and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test will be administered if clinically indicated."

Second, MOM will allow fully vaccinated workers who tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms to isolate and recover in a dedicated facility within the dormitories for up to 10 days. 

These workers will have thermometers and oximeters for monitoring their health, as well as telemedicine support, it added. 

These workers will be required to take an ART after Day 3 and will be discharged from the recovery facilities upon receiving a negative ART result, said the ministry.

Workers with symptoms will be given a confirmatory PCR test and taken to community care facilities or hospitals depending on their condition. The ministry said this will ensure "better prioritisation of healthcare capacity for treating serious cases, as well as for other healthcare needs".

"I think what is important and what's worthy of note is that the vast majority of the infected workers who are fully vaccinated, continue to be well and asymptomatic, even when they're carrying the virus,” said Dr Tan.

More than 90 per cent of migrant workers in dormitories are vaccinated and are generally young, the ministry said. 

None have been in the intensive care unit. One worker who received a non-Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR) vaccine "needed oxygen supplementation briefly", MOM said.

A non-PSAR vaccine is one that is approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization but not approved by Singapore authorities. Private healthcare institutions can bring in these COVID-19 vaccines, which include the Sinovac, Sinopharm, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Migrant worker dormitories were placed under movement restrictions in April last year, after an outbreak saw tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases among those living there.

MOM said last month it will “gradually ease” ease these restrictions. A pilot trial was launched on Sep 11 under which some vaccinated workers were allowed to visit pre-selected community locations such as Little India.

More than 50,000 COVID-19 cases in Singapore have been recorded in dormitories since the start of the pandemic. There were 818 dormitory residents among the 2,909 new cases announced on Friday night in Singapore.

Source: CNA/gy(cy)

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