SINGAPORE - Two foreign worker dormitories which have seen large numbers of Covid-19 cases have been gazetted as isolation areas to stem transmission of the coronavirus in the community.
This means that around 20,000 workers at S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite in Toh Guan will be quarantined in their rooms for the next 14 days.
In addition, measures will be taken to lessen interaction of workers in other dormitories. This includes preventing the intermingling of workers between different blocks and floors at dormitories, and staggering meal and recreation times.
The Government will also be housing foreign workers in essential services separately.
The moves come after the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed a record 120 more Covid-19 cases on Sunday (April 5), of which four were imported and 116 local. The local cases include 39 Singapore citizens or permanent residents and 76 long-term work pass holders.
MOH said it does not currently have a breakdown of how many of these new cases are linked to clusters or unlinked. This brings Singapore's total to 1,309 cases.
Of the new cases, 22 are linked to S11 Dormitory @ Punggol at 2 Seletar North Link. It now has at least 62 confirmed cases.
Another 10 have been linked to Westlite Toh Guan dormitory at 18 Toh Guan Road East, which now has at least 28 confirmed cases.
On the move to designate the two dormitories as isolation areas, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said: "The key objective is to ensure the health and well-being of everyone, not just of our own people but also foreign workers helping our economy... We want to give foreign workers the assurance that the measures we take are in their interest as well as their well-being."
Mrs Teo added that the workers will continue to be paid during this period, and that they will still be able to make remittances to their families back in their home countries.
Dormitories have been a growing area of concern in the outbreak, with three of the four new clusters announced on Saturday (April 4) being dormitories - Sungei Tengah Lodge, Toh Guan Dormitory and Cochrane Lodge II.
On Friday, the Government announced its tightest measures to date to stem the spike in local Covid-19 cases. All workplace premises, other than those in essential services and key economic sectors, will have to close from Tuesday (April 7) to May 4, and all schools will move to full home-based learning.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force battling the coronavirus, said there are now two separate strategies for tackling the spread of local cases - one for dormitories and one for the wider community.
"Once the circuit breaker (measures) kicks in, all foreign workers, on top of (those in) isolation areas, will have to stay in dormitories and will not be able to come out, so there is no infection to the rest of the community," he said.
"For the next category... that is where all of us now have a part to play. We really call on Singaporeans to take this very seriously."
Mr Wong said people have been asking since Friday's announcement what counts as an essential service and what activities are still allowed once the measures kick in.
"We are responding to all the businesses asking questions, and let's make it very clear. If your business is not in the list of essential services, you either have to telecommute 100 per cent or you stop work altogether," he said.
"There are no two ways about this. Likewise for individuals, the rules are very clear. You go out only for essential activities... and other than that, you have to stay home."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.
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