SINGAPORE: Foreign workers living in dormitories will now undergo a more targeted quarantine approach to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, in a bid to minimise work disruption and for measures to be more sustainable.
Workers may now be quarantined by levels or sections instead of entire blocks, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a press release on Friday (Sep 25).
The ministry also said workers who have recovered and are within 150 days since their infection would not be quarantined.
The more targeted approach follows a review by MOM and the Ministry of Health (MOH) of purpose-built dormitories, decant sites, factory-converted dormitories and construction temporary quarters.
MOM said the two ministries have also taken into account that many dormitories have implemented tighter safe living measures to limit intermixing between residents.
"In dormitories that have no intermixing between workers, where workers observe Safe Living Measures and where segregation measures that have been put in place by dormitory operators, workers may be quarantined by levels or sections instead of the entire blocks," MOM said.
"Those who have recovered and are within 150 days from their infection will not be quarantined. This is in view of the latest medical evidence which showed that these workers continue to have antibodies to guard against reinfection."
Previously, when new COVID-19 cases were detected, the following workers living in the same block would be quarantined: those not previously infected, or those who had recovered and 120 days had passed since their infection.
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In the press release, MOM gave an example of this new targeted approach.
At Westlite Woodlands dormitory, following detection of a new infection through rostered routine testing, the close contacts of the infected person living in the same block were quarantined. Under the previous approach, this would have affected all 318 workers in the block.
With the new approach, only 68 workers were quarantined as proper safe living measures were in place to ensure proper segregation, such that the remaining six levels were not affected.
To derive the maximum benefit from the differentiated approach, dormitory operators, workers and employers need to do their part, MOM said.
These include sustaining and complying with safe living measures and ensuring workers consistently undergo rostered routine testing.
NEW CLUSTERS EMERGED AFTER DORMITORIES CLEARED OF COVID-19
All of Singapore's dormitories were declared clear of COVID-19 on Aug 18. Since then, however, more than 800 new COVID-19 cases have been detected in the last month at dormitories.
As of Thursday, a total of 21 dormitories have new clusters.
READ: Toh Guan Dormitory residents to be tested for COVID-19 more often in pilot to detect cases earlier
The first new cluster, at Sungei Tengah Lodge, was reported on Aug 22 and has grown to have 216 new COVID-19 cases. Sungei Tengah Lodge is the largest purpose-built dormitory in Singapore, with more than 16,000 workers living there.
Before it was declared cleared by MOM on Jul 21, the cluster had more than 2,200 cases linked to it.
The next biggest new cluster is at Avery Lodge Dormitory, which was identified on Sep 10. Since then, 128 new COVID-19 infections have been discovered there. It was previously declared cleared by MOH on Aug 10, and the cluster was closed.
There have been 118 cases at the new cluster at Westlite Toh Guan dormitory since it was identified about three weeks ago on Sep 3.
Westlite Toh Guan was one of the first dormitories to have a COVID-19 cluster before Singapore’s “circuit breaker” period, but it was previously declared cleared of COVID-19 on Aug 14.