Over the past few days, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued various guidelines in relation to migrant workers residing in dormitories. These include measures for dormitory residents to enjoy safe rest days, as well as a multi-tiered approach for the safe restart of work.
In its daily COVID-19 update, the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that the Inter-agency Taskforce (ITF) has completed the clearing of dormitories through aggressive testing of workers.
Currently, there are still about 22,800 workers who are still serving out their quarantine period, including about 800 migrant workers who were newly quarantined because a new case was discovered amongst them in a cleared dormitory. It noted that these workers will be tested when their quarantine ends. Case counts are expected to remain high in the coming days, before tapering down thereafter.
Of the 30 new cases discovered in the dormitories yesterday (12 August), 99% are linked to known clusters, while the rest are pending contact tracing.
The dormitories at 33 Senoko Way and 23 Sungei Kadut Street 2 have been cleared, and now house only recovered individuals and those who have recently tested negative for COVID-19 infection. As such, the clusters have now been closed.
Small-scale trials Dormitory Exit Passes, staggered time slots for safe rest days
In line with the clearing of dormitories, the MOM is now working towards allowing dormitory residents to leave for leisure and personal errands while keeping them safe from COVID-19.
In a press release, MOM stated that the eventual goal is to allow residents from cleared dorms to enjoy their rest days without movement restrictions. To this end, MOM has engaged employers, NGOs, dormitory operators and Recreation Centre operators to coordinate this important undertaking.
Small-scale trials will be started this month for residents from selected cleared dormitories, with residents allowed to visit Recreation Centres on their rest days for personal errands such as buying groceries, SIM cards, and remitting money.
To reduce crowding, exits will be spread out across each day. Residents will need to apply for a Dormitory Exit Pass through their SGWorkPass app, which will provide a specific exit time slot.
Residents in participating dormitories that meet all the following criteria will be granted an Exit Pass:
- Has recovered from Covid-19, or has a negative swab test result within 14 days prior to the exit date;
- Not be on Quarantine Order or Stay Home Notice;
- Is staying in a cleared dormitory;
- Has installed and registered TraceTogether; and
- Chooses an Exit Pass timeslot with available vacancies.
As the Exit Pass arrangements are refined through the trials, MOM will progressively ramp up the number of participating dormitories over the next two months.
Details of the eventual Exit Pass arrangements will be announced in due course and MOM aims to have all dormitory residents able to apply for Exit Passes to visit Recreation Centres in October 2020.
The limits on exit duration and destinations will be reviewed after October 2020, taking into account COVID-19 transmission trends then.
Additionally, BCA, EDB and ESG, with the support of industry associations, have announced measures to stagger the rest days of their workers so as to help reduce crowding.
Multi-layered approach to ensure safe restart of work
In an earlier statement on 11 August, MOM revealed its multi-layered approach to ensure the safe restart of work.
On top of existing safe living measures (such as staggered pick-up/drop-off timings) and social distancing measures at the workplace, the ITF is actively monitoring the dormitories to manage the risk of new outbreaks.
This is achieved through four key layers of safeguards:
- First, workers are required to self-monitor their health. They are required to report their temperature and also if they have any acute respiratory illness symptoms through the FWMOMCare App twice a day. Workers who report symptoms will be identified and cared for immediately.
- Second, we monitor closely the number of migrant workers who report sick at the medical posts, as an early indication of any possible infections.
- Third, we monitor the wastewater from higher risk dormitories for traces of the COVID-19 virus.
- Fourth, workers in higher risk settings are put through regular routine testing. This includes workers staying in dormitories and workers who work onsite in the construction, marine and process sectors. They are required to go for a swab test every 14 days. Workers who were infected previously and have recovered from COVID-19 are not required to undergo regular testing for 180 days.
If the monitoring picks up potential infections among the migrant workers, the ITF will quickly isolate and quarantine all at-risk workers* within the block that was housing the infected worker as a precautionary measure. Aggressive testing will also be conducted to identify any further spread of the virus.
Employers to arrange COVID-19 swab tests for workers who need to be regularly tested
MOM highlighted that employers of workers that need to be regularly tested are required to arrange for their workers to undergo the COVID-19 swab test every 14 days at a Regional Screening Centre, or an in-dormitory test centre where available.
Employers should space out the testing of their workers over the 14-day period to ensure that we are able to maintain constant surveillance of the COVID-19 situation amongst the workers.
Employers can book appointment slots, and select the swab location and testing date of their workers through the Health Promotion Board's Swab Registration System (SRS). Information on how to arrange for the testing of their workers has been sent to all employers with eligible workers electronically.
As workers will be required to go for regular tests when the dormitories they are residing in are cleared, employers are encouraged to check the SRS regularly to book appointments for their workers.
Employers who have not arranged for their workers to be swabbed within the 14-day timeframe are reminded to do so immediately.
* Note: Workers who have recovered for less than 90 days will not need to be isolated as current medical evidence suggests that they continue to have immunity. Those who have recovered for more than 90 days from their original illness will be clinically assessed as to whether they will require repeat testing and isolation, if they develop fresh respiratory symptoms.
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