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Changi Covid-19 care facility manager says situation has ‘improved’ after video of rowdy food queues surfaced

SINGAPORE — The queues for food at the community care facility at the Changi Exhibition Centre have improved with more staff members deployed, the facility’s managing agent Mandarin Oriental Singapore said. This was after footage of migrant workers crowding haphazardly to get food made the rounds on social media and messaging groups on Monday (May 18).

Changi Covid-19 care facility manager says situation has ‘improved’ after video of rowdy food queues surfaced

A screengrab of a video, which has been going around chat groups and social media, showing migrant workers getting their meals at food stations in Changi Exhibition Centre.

SINGAPORE — The queues for food at the community care facility at the Changi Exhibition Centre have improved with more staff members deployed, the facility’s managing agent Mandarin Oriental Singapore said. This was after footage of migrant workers crowding haphazardly to get food made the rounds on social media and messaging groups on Monday (May 18).

In response to queries from TODAY, a spokesperson from the hotel group said that the incident depicted in the video was taken more than a week ago on May 10. 

Mandarin Oriental has been managing the facility’s operations. Changi Exhibition Centre houses more than 2,600 migrant workers who are diagnosed with Covid-19.

“The situation has improved significantly and is generally stable,” the spokesperson said.

The video shows around 300 men milling near food distribution stations at one section of the hall, with migrant workers huddling together and close to one another. A loud whistle and shouting noises, presumably from staff members at the facility, could be heard in the background.

It is not known where the two-minute video was first posted or who took it or posted it, but it went viral and several online users criticised the “poorly managed” situation.

Migrant workers were getting snacks at Changi Exhibition Centre on May 10, 2020, Mandarin Oriental said. Photo: Screengrab from Facebook

On WhatsApp, the video was being shared with an accompanying message suggesting that the migrant workers there were deliberately trying to be sick in order to avoid being sent home, since “companies can’t keep up with paying salaries and they are not working”.

The message also claimed that the video came from an “ex-nurse” and that the facility shown was the Singapore Expo, which turned out to be untrue.

Madam Ho Ching, chief executive officer of state investment firm Temasek Holdings, wrote on her Facebook account that she received the message and the video as well, and cautioned people against believing its contents.

“The video may be real, but the fake story about an ex-nurse friend is made up to stir people’s emotions negatively, by whoever circulated the video,” Mdm Ho, who is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said.

The care facility's manager said that the crowding occurred at just one section of the hall. Photo: Screengrab from Facebook

Mandarin Oriental said it is aware that the video has been circulating online. It clarified that the May 10 incident happened during the distribution of an afternoon snack.

Queues were “orderly” throughout the facility, except for the depicted section of around 300 migrant workers, it said.

“We can understand the concern that some have expressed about the occupants coming into close proximity with each other. As they are all Covid-19-positive, they do not pose risks to one another,” the spokesperson said.

Thereafter, the managing agent said that it sought to work with the migrant workers on the need to maintain orderly queues, with “enhanced measures to improve queue management” put in place, such as staggered meal timings by sectors in order to reduce crowding at the meal collection area.

This includes putting in place more personnel and having volunteers among the migrant workers to assist with meal distribution and crowd management.

The spokesperson also sent two closed circuit television videos showing the afternoon snack distribution on May 12 and 14, which shows a much shorter line of fewer than 10 workers queueing for snacks.

Community care facilities are meant for Covid-19 patients who have mild symptoms and are less vulnerable, so as not to tax the national capacity to isolate patients in hospitals. Besides  Changi Exhibition Centre, other such facilities are located at D’Resort in Pasir Ris and the Singapore Expo Convention & Exhibition Centre, also in Changi.

The capacity of these facilities is expected to be increased to hold 20,000 patients by the end of June.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus Changi Exhibition Centre Migrant Workers Mandarin Oriental

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