At a press conference on Tuesday (14 April), Singapore’s Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo detailed a three-pronged approach that has been undertaken by the special Inter-agency Taskforce, in managing the transmission of COVID-19 in all dormitories across Singapore.

This approach is as follows:

First, is the active containment of the spread in dormitories with clusters. In other words, these dormitories are placed on lockdown, and workers have to stay in their rooms as much as possible, and minimise interactions with others in the dormitory.

Minister Teo elaborated: “Meals are provided to avoid communal cooking. Those with communal toilets have scheduled, staggered shower times. We are also testing the workers, to identify and isolate the infected ones, and closely monitoring the health of the other workers.”

Second, is in line with preventing clusters from forming. Minister Teo stressed that not all dormitories have clusters, i.e. 29 of the 43 purpose-built dormitories and almost all factory-converted dormitories do not have clusters.

Further, all foreign workers here who have tested positive, as well as their close contacts, would have already been isolated separately. Minister Teo added: “While these dormitories are not gazetted as isolation areas, we aim to apply the same measures for these Page 3 of 4 dormitories – so they are effectively on lockdown.

“Likewise, workers have to stay in the dormitories. Within the dormitories, we enforce strict safe distancing measures, which means no more cooking and freely mixing with friends from other housing units.”

Third, all workers in essential services across all 43 purpose-built dormitories have been moved out. This applies to about 7,000 workers who employers still need them to work.

These workers have been placed in separate facilities, to ensure they won’t need to leave their dormitories daily or interact with the dormitory residents. To provide a higher level of assurance, medical screening was conducted to ensure that the workers did not have symptoms before moving into the alternative accommodation, Minister Teo added.

In the meantime, while at the workplace, or travelling to work, they are required to also implement strict safe distancing.

Minister Teo further stated: “We hold the employers of these essential workers responsible to do their utmost to keep their workers safe, even as they go about their duties. We will do the same for essential service workers in factory-converted dormitories – move them out, monitor them and screen them all.

“The moving out of workers from all the dormitories will help create more space for isolation facilities within the dormitories, so that we can house separately the workers who are unwell or are waiting for the results of their swab tests.”

In ensuring the effective implementation of the above approach, Minister Teo also shared three key enablers in place:

  • The deployment of FAST teams comprising SAF, SPF and MOM officers, s that work round-the-clock to implement safe distancing measures on the ground.
  • The stepping up of medical support at dormitories. These are supported by the regional healthcare systems which deploy teams of doctors, nurses and technicians to the dormitories, who will also work with the FAST teams to set up on-site isolation facilities.
  • The cooperation of dormitory operators and employers. “The more the dorm operators can handle the food and hygiene matters, the more the FAST teams can focus on effective safe distancing and tackle other issues. For example, expanding the isolation facilities on-site and helping workers remit money home.
    “A big part of the workers’ sense of well-being is to be able to continue to receive their salaries. This is where the employers have a duty to ensure that this is done in a timely manner.”

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