As part of precautionary measures, effective today (20 April) and until 4 May, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will require all work permit holders and S Pass holders in the construction sector to be placed on mandatory stay-home notices (SHN).
This decision comes as the country observed a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the recent days, of which a large majority involved foreign workers living in dormitories and working in construction. In the Ministry of Health’s daily updates for yesterday (19 April), for instance, 544 out of the 596 confirmed cases came from foreign worker dormitories; contact tracing had also suggested that transmissions at common construction worksites may have contributed to this increase.
Here’s what employers in the construction sector should know about this new requirement:
- It will take place for a period of two weeks, from Monday, 20 April to Monday, 4 May 2020 (both dates inclusive).
- The SHN applies to both the workers and their dependants in any place of accommodation, or any place which is converted into a place of accommodation on a temporary basis, or otherwise.
- It excludes those staying in dormitories gazetted as isolation areas, or any foreign employee dormitory as defined in the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act 2015, as special arrangements have already been catered for them.
- The MOM requires employers of the affected workers to make the necessary arrangements during this period, which includes providing food and taking care of their wellbeing.
- Employers are also required to do daily checks on the workers’ health, for reporting to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), and advise them to seek medical attention promptly if they display any symptoms of acute respiratory infection.
- Employers should also ensure the addresses and mobile numbers of their foreign employees, which are registered with MOM, are up-to-date; failure to do so will result in “strict enforcement measures” taken by the MOM, including the suspension of work pass privileges and revocation of work passes.
- Exemptions may be sought for foreign workers in essential services, such as vector control. Employers can approach BCA for this, but should note that the number of foreign workers granted such exemptions will be made at the discretion of BCA.
Two Work Permit holders charged for breaching Quarantine Order
In similar news, two Work Permit holders in Singapore were charged in court last Friday (17 April) under Section 15(4)(b) of the Infectious Diseases Act, for breaching their Quarantine Order (QO).
One of them, a 35-year-old male Indian national, had been issued a QO on 17 February, and was required to be isolated at home from 16 to 20 February, which he had acknowledged. His quarantine period had then been extended to noon on 25 February, and was thus not allowed to leave his place of residence for the entire duration.
However, he had left home on 24 February to make some purchases, without the permission of the Director of Medical Services, thereby breaching his Q.
In the same period, a 49-year-old male Chinese national was issued a Q0 on 15 February, for a period lasting 12 to 24 February. On 19 February, he had relocated to another place of residence to continue his quarantine order per the instructions of his employer – while failing to inform the employer that he was not supposed to do so while under quarantine. At the same time, he had also failed to seek permission from the Director of Medical Services prior to the relocation.
On top of this, further investigations had also revealed that the work permit holder had left his residence on 21 February, in search of a bank.
The Ministry of Health reminds all that any person convicted of an offence under Section 15(4)(b) of the Infectious Diseases Act is liable to a fine of up to $10,000, or up to six months’ imprisonment, or both.
More subsidised solutions provided to support WFH for businesses
In other COVID-19-related news, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) have pre-approved remote working solutions for businesses. This was announced on Friday (17 April).
These solutions, which come bundled with laptops and up to 80% subsidy from the Productivity Grant (PSG), will be in place until end-2020, to further help businesses digitalise and cope with the challenges of the the COVID-19 situation.
As part of the Resilience Budget announced in March, the PSG was enhanced to increase the maximum support level from 70% to 80% until 31 December 2020; at the same time, the scope of pre-approved digital solutions under the Grant was also expanded to include COVID-19 relevant solutions, such as online collaboration, virtual meetings, queue management and temperature screening.
Additionally, to better support SMEs in ensuring business continuity during the Circuit Breaker, both IMDA and ESG have pre-approved two laptop-bundled remote working solutions by M1 and Singtel, under the SMEs Go Digital programme. Eligible SMEs will receive support for up to three laptops and online collaboration tools within each package.
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