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Covid-19: Govt focusing on housing arrangements for recovered foreign workers, as containment strategy enters next phase

SINGAPORE — The Government is now working on arranging suitable accommodation for recovered workers, as it moves into its third phase to contain the spread of Covid-19 among foreign workers.

Workers at the Sungei Tengah Lodge.

Workers at the Sungei Tengah Lodge.

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SINGAPORE — The Government is now working on arranging suitable accommodation for recovered workers, as it moves into its third phase to contain the spread of Covid-19 among foreign workers. 

Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said at a press conference on Friday (May 1) by the multi-ministry task force handling Singapore’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, that this was necessary to minimise the risk of recurring transmissions.  

Some recovered workers will be housed in designated blocks in their original dormitories, which will be thoroughly disinfected, while others will be placed in sites such as cruise ships or sports halls as temporary housing arrangements. 

The Government is also expediting the construction of dormitories that had been planned for before the Covid-19 pandemic and these will help with accommodation arrangements for workers.  

“Again, this will be an enormous challenge and not just the logistics aspects of it, many workers will be rehoused and they will have to get used to new friends,” said Mrs Teo.

She acknowledged that many employers will also have to adjust to their workers being in different locations with new arrangements. 

In this “recovery” phase, the Government will also look at developing new ways to monitor the health of workers so that “prompt action” can be taken. 

This will not only be done at dormitories but will also include new arrangements at work sites and elsewhere to ensure workers are kept safe even when they are able to resume work, said Mrs Teo.  

“It’s critical that we get this phase done well. So that work and business can resume safely when the conditions allow,” she said.

Mrs Teo said the first phase of controlling the spread of Covid-19 in dormitories was about “getting the basics right” which included matters relating to food, hygiene, safe distancing and ensuring workers were paid. 

The second phase was then focused on medical operations and ensuring that infrastructure and medical personnel were built up to implement this. 

Close to 3,000 staff have been deployed to help with the first two phases and there are now 170 Forward Assurance Support Teams (Fast) in place. 

These teams have nine officers each from the Singapore Armed Forces, police and Ministry of Manpower to look after issues that workers may have.

At non-purpose built dorms, the Government is working with dormitory operators, employers and also with non-governmental organisations to ensure that workers were looked after. 

Mr Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary for Manpower, noted at a media briefing that in some of the factory-converted dormitories, “the physical conditions are actually quite good, and the factory owners do have some additional space where they can repurpose… (and) enable the residents to have a little bit more space to live during this period.”

The Government also announced on Friday that it will build Community Care Facilities and Community Recovery Facilities within the most affected dormitories so that workers do not need to wait to be shuttled to such facilities. 

Community Care Facilities are for patients who are clinically well or display mild symptoms while the Community Recovery Facilities are for patients who no longer require medical care. 

Singapore Expo, Changi Exhibition Centre and D’Resort NTUC are currently being used as Community Care Facilities while there are 2,000 bed spaces in unused Singapore Armed Forces camps that are being used as Community Recover Facilities. 

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