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Up to 500 vaccinated migrant workers a week can leave dorms to visit designated areas in pilot to ease curbs

SINGAPORE — From Monday (Sept 13), vaccinated migrant workers living in dormitories will be allowed to visit certain locations in the community, including Little India, for the first time in more than one-and-a-half years.

Dr Koh Poh Koon (left), Senior Minister of State for Manpower, speaking to residents of Westlite Mandai Dormitory on Sept 9, 2021.

Dr Koh Poh Koon (left), Senior Minister of State for Manpower, speaking to residents of Westlite Mandai Dormitory on Sept 9, 2021.

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  • Up to 500 vaccinated migrant workers a week will be allowed to leave their dormitories to visit designated areas from Sept 13
  • The workers have been largely confined to their dorms for 18 months
  • Strict conditions apply, including a requirement for the workers to be vaccinated and for the dorm to be free of Covid-19 cases
  • The first designated area they may visit under the pilot scheme is Little India
  • Other restrictions are also being eased, allowing more visits to recreation centres and organised excursions

 

SINGAPORE — From Monday (Sept 13), vaccinated migrant workers living in dormitories will be allowed to visit certain places in the community, including Little India, for the first time in more than one-and-a-half years. 

The move is part of a pilot programme announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday, in line with a plan to ease movement restrictions for these workers gradually.  

The pilot had been on hold for several months, having originally been slated for the first quarter of this year.

Other eased restrictions include allowing all migrant workers to have more frequent visits to recreation centres and the resumption of organised excursions to attractions for vaccinated workers. 

MOM said in a statement that it was making these moves because the dormitories are now “more resilient”, with more than 90 per cent of workers having completed their full vaccination regimen. 

“Together with the implementation of a multi-layered strategy to test, detect and contain the spread of Covid-19, we are now better prepared to handle any outbreaks at the dormitories.” 

It added that it would be taking a “vaccination-differentiated approach”, where unvaccinated workers are subject to stricter infection-control measures or extra testing. 

Under the pilot, up to 500 workers a week would be allowed to visit certain locations. They must be from dormitories with a vaccination rate of at least 90 per cent and that have had no coronavirus cases in the previous two weeks.

The first place they may head to under the pilot is Little India. Other locations have yet to be finalised. 

Workers will be ferried there via transport arranged by MOM and the dormitories, and will be allowed to visit the location for about four to six hours. 

For a start, six groups may head out, with about 80 workers in each group. 

There will be two groups daily on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday — one in the morning and another in the afternoon. 

Workers may spend the first half an hour to one hour at a fixed location, such as a temple, before they will be allowed to roam free and easy around the stipulated area for other activities such as shopping and dining with friends for the remainder of the time. 

When asked how it would ensure that workers stay in the stipulated area, MOM said that more details about the pilot would be released next week. 

A TODAY Big Read feature in July shone the spotlight on how the restrictions have aggravated feelings of isolation, anguish and despair among the workers, with few outlets available for them to relieve their stress, as observed by activists who support migrant workers here.

Workers involved in the pilot will be required to take an antigen rapid test before they head out of their dormitories for the visits, and take one three days after. 

MOM will evaluate the pilot after a month to see how to expand its scope and scale safely. 

In December last year, the improved situation at the dormitories led the authorities to announce that a pilot would be introduced in the first quarter of this year to allow migrant workers in some dormitories to return to the community once a month. 

It was, however, put on hold indefinitely to protect the health of the workers, especially when more cases of Covid-19 were picked up, MOM said in July. 

VISITS TO RECREATION CENTRES

From Monday, all migrant workers will also be allowed to visit recreation centres more often. They will be allowed to do so twice a week, up from once a week. 

MOM will work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to organise activities such as movie screenings, sporting and leisure events and religious services at the centres. 

Workers will be able to visit the centres within 48 hours of a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test result or within 24 hours of a negative antigen rapid test result, as part of their rostered testing. 

If workers wish to visit a recreation centre for the second time in a week, they may do so after they take an antigen rapid test at the centre and test negative. 

Organised excursions to attractions by NGOs will resume, after they had been suspended since Singapore went into a heightened phase to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

Migrant workers who wish to take part must be vaccinated and take pre-event antigen rapid tests. 

MOM said that it had adopted a “calibrated approach” to ease movement restrictions for migrant workers gradually, so as to manage public health risks and put in place measures to prevent cross-infection between the community and dormitories. 

“MOM will monitor the situation and ease the measures progressively when conditions permit,” it said. 

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MOM Migrant Workers dormitory restrictions Little India recreation

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