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Ministerial Statement by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, 4 May 2020

A. PREAMBLE

A1. Mr Speaker, around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened lives and livelihoods. Likewise in Singapore. 

A2. MOM has been supporting the fight on the economic front, and also on the public health front.

A3. Our priority is to protect the livelihoods of Singaporeans. That remains so even as a new battlefront emerged.  Equally important now is to take care of our migrant workers’ health.  In my statement today, I will cover both aspects.

B. THE ECONOMIC FRONTLINE

B1. Last week, I updated the public on the labour market situation. COVID-19 hit us mainly from February onwards. In January, the economy was humming along. The Circuit Breaker started only in April.  Therefore, in the first quarter of the year, the full impact of COVID-19 was not yet felt.

B2. Even then, total employment contracted sharply. But the impact was not even; foreign employment fell significantly while local employment still managed some growth. Retrenchments have risen moderately. 

B3. There are signs that employers are trying hard to cut costs to save jobs. They too want businesses to restart quickly when conditions allow.  They are being helped by the significant wage support through the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, as well as the tripartite consensus on managing excess manpower.

B4. In April, over 7 billion dollars were paid out to employers through the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS).  This will help co-fund wages of over 1.9 million local employees. Later this month, more than 4 billion dollars will be paid out additionally. 

B5. The government provided levy waivers and rebates to help employers meet their obligations to their foreign employees during the Circuit Breaker. By May, over 62,000 employers would have received rebates totalling 675 million dollars. Another 675 million dollars is expected to be paid out by July. 

B6. Besides support for their employers, we are providing more direct support for our lower-wage workers. 

a. Many of them are in essential services and are continuing to work. They will get enhanced Workfare payouts which took effect in January, of up to 4,000 dollars annually.

b. In addition, 400,000 workers will get extra 3,000 dollars each in cash support through the Workfare Special Payment. This will be in two tranches, in July and October. 

c. Total Workfare payouts this year will be about 2.2 billion dollars.

B7. Inevitably, even with government support, troubles with business can strain labour relations. 

a. In dealing with the disputes, the tripartite partners agree to uphold the principles of fairness and shared responsibility.  

  b. Not all employers have been impacted to the same degree. Those in better shape financially should use all the government support to provide their employees with a more generous baseline wage. Others who are financially stressed and face poor business prospects should be frank with their unions and employees. They should work out together how to use the government support to help each other get through this period of difficulty. 

  c. One thing is clear: employers should not act unilaterally and put their employees on prolonged no-pay leave or reduced pay, without their consent. To Mr Dennis Tan’s question, employees who need help can approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for advisory and mediation services.   

B8. The National Wages Council also issued a helpful set of guidelines in March.  For example, it encouraged companies to use any lull in their business to train their workers. 

a. SkillsFuture Singapore has an Enhanced Training Support Package that covers up to 90% of course fees for employers in selected sectors. Many courses come with absentee payroll that give employers in all sectors extra wage support - 90% of the hourly basic salary up $10 per hour. 

  b. The SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit of 10,000 dollars further helps employers pay for up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses that are not already subsidised by the Government.  

B9. This time round, the Government has made a special effort to also support freelancers and self-employed persons (SEPs). 

a. We expect the SEP Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) to pay out close to 1 billion dollars of cash support to over 100,000 SEPs, with the first payment in end of May. The SIRS scheme was designed and implemented in record time. Those who qualify need not apply and are instead automatically included.       

  b. We know, as a result, there may be deserving SEPs who should also be considered. We therefore appreciate NTUC for stepping forward to help with appeals.   

  c. More than that, NTUC is helping through the SEP Training Support Scheme (STSS) which now provides an hourly training allowance of 10 dollars.  This comes to about 400 dollars for a week-long course.  While modest compared to the income SEPs may have earned in the past, it will still help defray their daily expenditure as they learn new skills during this downtime. 

  d. I am very encouraged that already, about 1,800 SEPs will benefit from the scheme. One of them is 34-year-old Jovan, who has been a freelance band director for MOE schools for the past 10 years. Since the suspension of CCA programmes, Jovan has made good use of time freed up and attended seven different courses. They include SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace, Setting up and Running a Business and How to Pitch Like a Pro, all of which he finds useful. 

B10. Whether for SEPs or regular employees, finding a job at such times will not be easy.  

a. This is why we launched the SGUnited Jobs initiative in March.  By now, more than 16,000 immediate jobs vacancies have been made available. This is already higher than our initial target of 10,000 jobs.

  b. This initiative has helped jobseekers like Wendy who had a steady job as a flight attendant.  When she was placed on furlough, her friends encouraged her to check out the SGUnited Jobs Virtual Careers Fair.  She now works as a part-time cashier at Prime Supermarket, while waiting for the aviation industry to recover. 

  c. The public sector has taken the lead to partner NTUC’s Job Security Council at e2i, unions, and employers to place more than 3,000 individuals from affected sectors to take on jobs such as safe distancing ambassadors and care ambassadors in various hospitals.

  d. In sectors that are still hiring, for example Security, WSG will ramp up the capacity of Professional Conversion Programmes. Through the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support package, employers can also receive a hiring incentive which provides 20% salary support, capped at 6,000 dollars over six months. This is for new hires aged 40 and above hired through an eligible skills training programme.

  e. I share the concerns of Mayor Denise Phua, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Rahayu Mahzam regarding fresh graduates from local and overseas institutions.  This is why we launched the SGUnited Traineeships Programme to help them gain industry experience, build up their resumes and boost their chances of securing jobs in the future. The Government funds 80% of the monthly training allowance for up to 12 months.   

  f. Our young people are absolutely critical to our future. There are now more than 4,000 traineeship opportunities offered by 280 organisations.  We hope more host companies can come forward to help build up the pool of traineeships and give our young graduates the much-needed opportunities to start their careers. Graduates can apply for these opportunities from 1 Jun onwards.

B11. Mr Speaker, economic conditions will remain challenging for some time.

a. Given the strong budgetary support provided by the Finance Ministry, we are holding the line on the economic front. 

  b. We recognise the many efforts by businesses and workers to adjust to the new situation as it evolves, and help one another weather the storm.  

  c. As much as we can, MOM will continue to work with our sister agencies to support businesses and protect livelihoods.   

C. THE HEALTH FRONTLINE

C1. Let me now turn to how we are supporting our healthcare colleagues in the fight against COVID-19.  

C2. This has been one of the most unusual periods for MOM.  We work mainly in the economic and social spheres.  Workplace safety and health has always been high on our agenda. Now, it has taken on new meaning.

C3. Early in the outbreak, MOM was mobilised to help prevent imported cases. Progressively, we limited the return of work pass holders coming through mainland China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and then worldwide.  In total, we processed about 80,000 applications to return but could only approve a minority. Our officers dealt with many appeals. 

C4. To keep the community safe, the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced the requirement for returning persons to serve a 14-day “Leave of Absence”, which was later tightened to be a “Stay-Home Notice” (SHN).  MOM was tasked to ensure strict compliance.  With the help of GovTech, we developed in double-quick time, a system of monitoring and enforcement. This system was later adapted for Singaporeans returning from abroad, to protect their families. 

C5. Singapore was largely able to curb imported cases due to the combined efforts of many agencies on this front.

C6. Then, in mid-March, Malaysia announced that they would implement the Movement Control Order (MCO). This came as a surprise to businesses who had workers commuting daily across the border. They scrambled to find alternative accommodation. 

a. Overnight, MOM worked with Ministry of National Development (MND), the Housing Development Board (HDB), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), as well as community groups, to source for suitable accommodation to help these businesses.   

  b. Most of the affected Malaysians have settled into new accommodation in Singapore. About one in ten subsequently returned to Malaysia, especially when Singapore introduced the Circuit Breaker.  

C7. Throughout this period, migrant workers were also on our radar. 

a. A day after the first confirmed case in Singapore, MOM reached out to dormitory operators to be more vigilant and to step up hygiene. 

  b. In fact, one of the earliest media conferences that Minister Lawrence Wong and I held was at the Tuas View Dormitory, after we inspected their quarantine facilities.

  c. We produced materials in the workers’ native languages to encourage them to take steps to protect themselves.

  d. Subsequently, non-essential facilities in the dormitories like gyms and TV rooms were closed. 

  e. Meal-times and recreational hours were staggered. Intermixing between blocks was stopped. 

  f. MOM officers also fanned out on weekends, to advise migrant workers to observe safe distancing measures and disperse big groups that were gathering at popular hangouts. 

C8. The most prominent cluster of infected migrant workers was from Seletar Aerospace Heights, which was detected in February. It involved five workers all staying at five different locations, only two of which were dormitories. Thereafter, there was no indication of higher prevalence of COVID-19 amongst migrant workers, compared to the general community.

C9. Like Mr Ang Wei Neng and AP Walter Theseira, we are very keen to understand how the virus later spread among migrant workers. The epidemiological studies provide some preliminary clues.

a. Within the dormitories that have clusters, not all blocks or rooms are equally affected.

  b. Across different dormitories, infected workers were linked through common work sites. At the work sites, it was not uncommon for the infected workers to take breaks together, share food and utensils.

  c. Likewise, infected workers from different dormitories had gathered during their rest days to socialise and shop, for example at Mustafa. 

  d. Back in the dormitories, workers spent time with their friends, cooking, eating and relaxing together. 

  e. The virus may have spread through all of these activities, much like how it spread among family members, religious groups and even colleagues.

C10. One recent finding is that most of the infected workers have mild symptoms, likely because they tend to be young. 

a. When asked if they are unwell, even after testing positive, some workers say they feel fine. 

  b. Many were uncovered only because of active case-finding or swab exercises. 

  c. This may explain why up to the middle of March, the cases of workers at the dormitories testing positive were few and far between.

C11. Once evidence emerged that the virus had spread in the dormitories, we decided to deal with it squarely and quickly, and mobilise whole-of-government resources. 

a. An Inter-agency Taskforce was set up, comprising officers from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Home Team, Ministry of Health (MOH), MCI, MND, many agencies.  

  b. Including the private sector recruits that supplement our efforts, nearly 3,000 staff are now deployed to look after the health and well-being of our migrant workers.

  c. Everyday, we are joined by thousands of volunteers, especial those from the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC). 

C12. Multiple channels of transmission among migrant workers, as appear to be the case, also means that we have to deploy a multi-faceted approach to dealing with the outbreak. A focus on rooming arrangements on their own, may not prevent a recurrence. This consideration underpins the comprehensive approach of the Taskforce.

C13. About three weeks ago, I explained their three-pronged strategy:

a. First, contain the spread of the virus in the dormitories where clusters have formed;

  b. Second, prevent spread in those with no cluster, and 

  c. Third, move out and test all workers who are still needed for essential work.

C14. I had also explained the three key enablers to implement these strategies effectively:

a. The Forward Assurance Support (FAST) teams;

  b. A Medical Support Plan that is holistic; and

  c. Roping in dormitory operators and employers to improve hygiene and provide necessities.   

C15. The Taskforce has gone about its work professionally with a clear focus on the workers’ well-being.

C16. In the first phase, it was about getting the basics right.

a. This was already an enormous undertaking, and there were certainly hiccups along the way. Nearly 200 FAST teams are now deployed and they have helped greatly.

  b. Among the safe distancing measures introduced, we had to stop communal cooking. Officers then worked round the clock to ensure that meals suitable for the varied diets were delivered in a timely manner (more than 10 million catered meals have been served).

  c. They coordinate schedules for workers to use toilets so as to prevent mixing, make sure the dormitories are kept clean, and attend to workers’ feedback and requests, such as getting paid and money remittances. 

  d. More than 10,000 workers in essential services were moved out and progressively tested so they can continue to work safely. Workers from dormitories that had been gazetted as Isolation Areas were not moved as they would pose a higher risk of infecting others. We then stopped further movements in and out of dormitories to prevent cross-infections in both directions. 

  e. In addition, we provided WIFI access and distributed nearly 300,000 SIM cards so the workers can keep in touch with family and friends.

C17. In the second phase, it was about getting the medical operations right. 

a. The medical support plan was fully fleshed out, the infrastructure and personnel steadily built up. 

  b. The Regional Healthcare Systems deploy teams of doctors, nurses and technicians to each of the 43 purpose-built dormitories (PBDs). 

  c. They tend to workers who are unwell, swab those who have shown acute respiratory symptoms, manage the cases that need to be sent to other facilities, and assess if the workers are well enough to return to their rooms. They work with the FAST teams to set up on-site isolation facilities and organise safe conveyance from one location to another.

  d. We have also set up four medical posts at the Tuas South, Kranji, Woodlands and Kaki-Bukit migrant worker recreation centres to cover the larger factory-converted dormitories (FCDs) and construction temporary quarters (CTQs). 

  e. For workers in the smaller FCDs and CTQs, we brought in the private healthcare groups, as well as the nation-wide network of Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) and Polyclinics. 

  f. If any worker was unwell, they got the same care as any Singaporean would. The worker from Bangladesh who was transferred to a general ward after spending 2 months in ICU shows the extent of care.  

  g. Furthermore, the cost of all tests and treatment is borne by the Government.  

C18. MPs like Mr Liang Eng Hwa, are naturally keen to know if these measures are working.   

a. The situation within the 43 PBDs is largely stable now. The picture among the thousand plus FCDs and CTQs is much more mixed and taking up much bandwidth. 

  b. In many dormitories, there is active case-finding and swab exercises so that we can isolate and treat infected workers, and break transmissions.  

  c. Most of the workers are well and those tested positive are on the path to recovery.  

  d. The full results of these efforts will however take time to show.

C19. Outside of the dormitories, we identified another concern. Infections among workers in the Construction sector were noticeably higher than the general community, and have not tapered off. 

a. Supported by the health assessment of our MOH colleagues, MOM and BCA decided we needed to take further precaution and act quickly.  

  b. We required all work permit holders and S Pass holders in the construction sector, and their dependants, to be placed on mandatory SHN.  

  c. Excluding the workers already in dormitories, the requirement put another 100,000 workers out of circulation. While they may not be infectious, it is safer to minimise their interactions with each other and the broader community

  d. To decisively break the cycle of transmission, the SHN was extended form the initial 2 weeks to 4 weeks in total.

C20. Mr Speaker, in spite of the current challenges, we must now get ready for the third phase where it is about getting the recovery right.   

a. This involves building up community recovery facilities (CRFs) and housing recovered workers in suitable accommodation to minimise the risks of recurrent transmissions.

  b. We must work out a way to allow recovered and uninfected workers to go back to work safely.

  c. This will again be an enormous challenge, and not just the logistics of it.  

  d. Many workers will be re-housed and have to get used to new friends and habits, as Ms Cheng Li Hui alludes to.  

  e. Many employers will have to adjust to their workers being in different locations with new arrangements.  

  f. We will have to develop new strategies to monitor the health of the workers.  For example, we plan to issue pulse oximeters and require the worker to take readings regularly. We will also have to plan for a more sustainable medical support operation.  With telemedicine, we can still attend to unwell workers promptly.

C21. The Taskforce is focused on getting its job done.  Altogether, they are looking after about 400,000 migrant workers, bigger than the size of two Ang Mo Kio GRCs! This is just mind-boggling, if you think about it. 

a. For those on the ground, there are no ready-made solutions.   Many officers simply roll up their sleeves, work with stakeholders to improvise. 

  b. One such officer is Muhammad Hafiz Ibrahim. An FCD operator told Hafiz he urgently needed to add extra toilets in a dormitory in order to effectively segregate the usage. It was near impossible to get new ones built any time soon. Hafiz thought to himself on what could be done and promptly sourced for suppliers of portable toilets, bringing much relief to the dorm operator and residents. 

  c. The Taskforce did not forget to bring some cheer to the dormitories when some of the workers marked their New Year.  It worked with the Hindu Endowment Board and community groups to share sweet treats, for example.

  d. We are now in the middle of Ramadan.  With the help of the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), special arrangements were made for the Muslim workers to get their sahur, or pre-dawn meals at 3 am, which means the caterers also have to be preparing the food around mid-night and get it delivered. Over 1.5 tonnes of dates were distributed. 

C22. In every phase, the situation has demanded a scale and speed of response that is unprecedented.  

a. The Taskforce is keenly aware of its mission.  

  b. They know it is critical to get things right, and to do it with heart.

  c. We will fulfil our commitment to the workers and pave the way for work and business to resume safely when conditions allow.  

  d. Let us give the Taskforce our full support. 

D. HOUSING STANDARDS FOR MIGRANT WORKERS 

D1. Mr Speaker, some members want to know what MOM’s plans are to deal with  the housing standards of our migrant workers. A bit of historical background is useful here. 

D2. During the 1970s to early 1990s, most migrant workers in the construction industry came from Thailand and Malaysia. Most of them rented HDB flats or private residential properties. 

D3. In the early 1990s, many more construction workers came from China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.  

a. To support their housing needs, the Government allocated land for companies to build self-contained dormitories with recreational amenities for their workers.

  b. BCA, HDB and JTC tendered out these sites. 

  c. One important consideration was, “what would a migrant worker want at the end of the work day, if he cannot be with his family?” Well, it is to be with his friends, cook a meal he would lik, practise his religious beliefs. 

  d. These dormitories were therefore designed for communal living. 

  e. To enable workers to live close to where they work and reduce the need to travel, the Government allowed some factories to convert part of their space for dormitory housing, subject to standards being met.

  f. Today, there are about 200,000 workers housed in the 43 PBDs and about 95,000 housed in 1,200 FCDs. Most of them are from the Construction, Marine and Process sectors. 

  g. We have 20,000 workers housed in CTQs. 

D4. Another 85,000 Work Permit and S Pass holders from the Construction sector live in HDB flats, private residential properties (PRPs), and other premises. Landlords must meet requirements and can be investigated for breaches.

D5. The Government also set aside land to build recreation centres for migrant workers, where they can access supermarkets, remittance services and sports fields. Today, there are eight recreation centres located in areas where there are more dormitories. 

D6. Over the years, we have taken steps to raise the housing standards of our migrant workers. A key milestone was the enactment of the Foreign Employee Dormitory Act (FEDA) in 2015.

D7. The FEDA imposes higher standards on dormitories that accommodate 1,000 or more workers. 

  a. For example, licensed operators were required to provide common recreational facilities like TV rooms, gyms as well as provide access to amenities like minimarts, and WIFI in common areas. 

  b. They are also required to have health facilities like sickbays or isolation rooms and draw up contingency plans for quarantine arrangements.

  c. MOM officers regularly inspect licensed dormitories to ensure compliance. In fact, the Government reviewed these plans with the dormitory operators at the end of last year and conducted a table top exercise. What do you do when there is an outbreak? But no one was thinking of something on the sale of the COVID-19 outbreak.

  d. In early February, MOM asked all FEDA-licensed dormitories to each put aside at least 10 quarantine rooms. Those were the rooms that Min Lawrence and I went to inspect. Today, in dormitories with few infected workers, this provision has helped us to quickly isolate the close contacts. Those who are infected, we removed.

D8. Ms Anthea Ong asked about smaller accommodation types.  Though not covered by the FEDA, they must still comply with a whole range of regulations. These include BCA’s standards for building structural safety, SCDF’s fire safety code, and NEA’s rules on sanitary facilities. 

D9. To questions by Mr Png Eng Huat and Assoc Prof Walter Theseira, regulatory agencies all conduct inspections.  

a. MOM alone has about 100 full-time dormitory inspectors who work under the supervision of the Commissioner for Foreign Employee Dormitories, two Deputy Commissioners and eight Assistant Commissioners. 

  b. Last year, these officers conducted 1,200 inspections and 3,000 investigations across all housing types. 

  c. There will be many more when other agencies are included.

D10. Every year, MOM alone takes an average of 1,200 employers to task for unacceptable accommodation under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, and about 20 operators for breach of FEDA licence conditions. 

a. Where lapses are found, dormitory operators must rectify them immediately. For offences under FEDA, dormitory operators can be fined up to 50,000 dollars and/or jailed up to 12 months. 

  b. Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, employers can also be fined up to 10,000 dollars and/or jailed up to 12 months.

D11. Other than enforcement, MOM proactively engages workers, employers and dorm operators. 

a. We conduct roadshows at the dormitories to hear from the workers themselves on improvements they would like to see.

  b. We survey the workers.  About nine in 10 say they are satisfied working in Singapore, and would recommend their friends or family to come here too.  

  c. Still, we educate the workers on what is acceptable accommodation and encourage them to alert MOM if they see something is not right. 

  d. We also involve the community.   For example, MOM started a “Colour my Dorm” programme about two years ago.   A wall mural at Kian Teck dormitory was painted by youths as a gift to the residents. 

E. GOING FORWARD 

E1. Housing standards for our migrant workers have progressed over the years. Mr Speaker, may I have your permission to show some photographs of what the newer dormitories look like.

E2. We will see how standards can be raised. But keep in mind that there are also older dormitories which perhaps have not quite reached these standards yet. 

E3. What changes will be effective in reducing the transmission risks? Will these changes require different space requirements and technical standards or stronger regulatory levers that Mr Louis Ng asked about?  

E4. Inevitably, in any sort of environment where people gather in groups, there could be significant transmission. For example, the two places where there is substantial transmission, are homes, and workplaces. Likewise, when you have a large number of people, living together, in a communal setting, there is a very high likelihood of transmission. There was a significant spread, for example on the US Aircraft Carrier, Theodore Roosevelt, with 950 sailors getting infected within a few weeks, this was 20% of the crew.

E5. The virus respects no housing type, no nationality, no occupation.  We will therefore need to re-look how everyone interacts with one another at home and at our workplaces.  Even the way we socialise will have to change. We will need a focus on public education. So the same for our migrant workers. 

E6. But as Minister Lawrence Wong said earlier, we are still in the heat of battle. We must be focused on bringing the outbreak under control and work out how we can exit from the Circuit Breaker and resume normal activities safely.  

E7. When this is over, we will reflect and thoroughly look into areas where we could have done better, so that we will be better prepared the next time.

Conclusion  

E8. In conclusion, Mr Speaker, the last few months have been nothing short of extra-ordinary for the MOM team. 

a. Whether on the economic or health frontlines, it’s been a real privilege to work with so many dedicated colleagues to tackle what our Prime Minister describes as “the challenge of this generation”.  

  b. Our tripartite partners have stepped up, and so have many employers and workers who are going out of their way to support one another.  

  c. Many people have taken the time and trouble to send words of encouragement, including a hand-drawn card from a little girl, my resident in Bishan. 

E9. The MOM team has also been very moved by the many offers of support for our vulnerable workers, including our migrant workers. 

a. The Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) set up the “Care Line” that operates 24/7. The volunteers manning the line are migrant workers themselves. 

  b. TemasekCares has mobilised its networks to distribute re-usable masks and care packs to more than 650,000 migrant workers including domestic workers. Its on its way.

  c. The corporate community is also stepping forward, such as the contribution of 300,000 sets of toiletries by Procter & Gamble.

  d. Among grassroots supporters, Mdm Magdalene Poh from Kreta-Ayer Kim Seng sourced for and donated 10,000 bottles of hand sanitisers.

  e. Ba’alawie Mosque donated 450 boxes of dates to 8 FCDs. 

E10. The Interagency Task Force (ITF) is especially thankful to a group of 10 NGOs and community groups.

a. Such as the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach, COVID-19 Migrant Support Coalition, which was an introduction from Mr Louis Ng – we are very grateful for that, and Crisis Relief Alliance.  

  b. They deliver food, masks and care packs to migrant workers outside the 43 PBDs who may not be getting enough support from their employers.  

  c. HealthServe launched a free virtual counselling clinic. To support the migrant workers’ emotional well-being, the sessions are conducted in the vernacular languages by volunteer counsellors, psychiatrists, social workers and interpreters. 

E11. Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad now holds weekly engagements with these partners to coordinate efforts while protecting the health and safety of the volunteers. 

E12. Mr Speaker, in the past few weeks, there have been many views shared from all quarters.

a. On such occasions, it is refreshing to hear what the migrant workers themselves say.

  b. Yes, there were initial problems with food.  Yes, it is hard to be cooped up in the rooms.  Yes, they miss their families and want to go home. 

E13. But listen also to the voices from their hearts, an example of which is captured by the Facebook post of a certain Mr Mirza, who lives in a dormitory.  This is what he had to say, and I quote: 

“I on behalf of all Bangladeshi migrant workers in Singapore, want to thank the entire Singapore government. Police, MOM, MOH and every security, every cleaner, every food supplier. They provide us food, daily needs items, mask, sanitizer, free WIFI/Sim card for our time spent in the room. Medical camp in every dormitory.

And I’m today promising here in public if I got a chance to do something for Singapore, I will do it at any cost. because they are doing their best for me. I will also do my best for them.”

E14. On behalf of all Singaporeans, I thank Mr Mirza for sharing his heartfelt acknowledgement and promise.  His words are not fanciful but they remind us of what this is about: doing our best for each other in times of hardship. 

E15. We have said right from the beginning that we have a responsibility to our migrant workers.  Many of them made personal sacrifices to come to Singapore to work and have made significant contributions which we appreciate deeply.  

E16. We will do everything within our means to make sure that they too win the fight against COVID-19, and reunite with their families in time to come.