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Oral Answer by Mr Zaqy Mohamad MOS for Manpower to PQ on migrant workers serving QO or SHN at separate locations

NOTICE PAPER NO. 2128 OF 2020 FOR A SITTING ON 4 JUNE 2020
QUESTION NO. 3641 FOR ORAL ANSWER

NCMP: Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong


To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) from February 2020 onwards, whether all foreign workers returning from overseas and all other foreign workers who were served with Stay Home Notices (SHNs) were required to stay in quarantine facilities and safely separated from unaffected workers at all times; and (b) whether any of the foreign workers had served out their SHNs, Leave of Absence or Quarantine Orders in their original dormitory rooms.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 2121 OF 2020 FOR A SITTING ON 4 JUNE 2020
QUESTION NO.  3627 FOR ORAL ANSWER


MP: Mr Christopher de Souza

To ask the Minister for Manpower in relation to the strategy to situate workers from dormitories to less densely populated buildings, whether there will be isolation, quarantine and care arrangements in place at the sites which the workers are resituated to.

Answer

  1. In early February 2020, Singaporeans and work pass holders returning from certain countries were placed on Leave of Absence (LOA). From 19 February, LOA was ceased and replaced with Stay-Home Notices (SHN).  The LOA or SHN were  precautionary measures meant for persons who were unlikely to be infected by COVID-19, and could therefore be served at their places of residence. At the time, temperature screening was conducted at our borders, and only those without fever or visible signs of ill health were allowed to proceed to their place of residence by dedicated transport. Dormitory operators were required to house their residents under LOA or SHN together with others on LOA or SHN, in a section of the dormitory that is separate from other residents, or in dedicated rooms. Since 10 April, the requirements for SHN have been further tightened to protect the community. Given the widespread transmission of COVID-19 in many countries, SHNs must now be served at dedicated facilities.
  2. From the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Quarantine Orders (QOs) have been issued to isolate individuals who are close contacts of COVID-19 cases.  Ground officers appointed by the Ministry of Health to serve the quarantine orders are empowered to assess the specific conditions of a person’s residence and decide where the QO should be served.
  3. Since 29 January 2020, MOM had proactively informed all dormitories licensed under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act to set aside isolation facilities, and conduct inspections to ensure compliance. The first cluster of COVID-19 among migrant workers was detected in early Februrary and involved five workers, only two of whom lived in separate dormitories. Up till late March, no other clusters were detected. As the numbers of infected workers were relatively small, the close contacts of these confirmed cases were directed to serve their QOs at Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs) or isolation areas within the dormitories. 
  4. Following the emergence of large clusters of infection in certain dormitories, movement in and out of the dormitories was restricted to minimise cross-infections in both directions. The Government set up medical posts to provide medical care to the dormitory residents. For dormitories with limited transmission, close contacts of infected workers continue to be sent to GQFs or Community Care Facilities in centralised locations. In other dormitories, spaces within the dormitories were reconfigured to house workers suspected or confirmed to be infected, separately from others.  This may or may not have been in the workers’ original dorm rooms.
  5. To further control the transmission in the dormitories, the Inter-Agency Task Force (ITF) shifted about 32,000 healthy workers from the dormitories to Government-provided temporary accommodations, such as sports halls, vacant HDB blocks, army camps, floating hotels, and private apartments slated for redevelopment. There are on-site isolation areas in these temporary accommodations. Residents who need medical care will be sent to regional medical posts, Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) or hospitals in the vicinity, depending on their clinical condition. After medical review, if they do not need further medical attention, they may be housed in isolation areas on-site until recovery. If they are tested, they will be housed in a Swab Isolation Facility until test results are known. If they are tested positive for COVID-19, they will be transferred to the appropriate care facility.
  6. In the medium term, the Government will continue to build up more temporary housing accommodations to reduce the density in the existing dormitories. These new dormitories will similarly set aside sufficient sick bays and isolation rooms to facilitate quick isolation of sick or infected cases.
  7. Regardless of where infected workers are housed, all migrant workers living in dormitories have access to medical care and attention. As of end May, out of the 30,000 or so migrant workers residing in dormitories confirmed positive for COVID-19, about half have recovered. Of the remaining half, the vast majority are recovering well, with only one currently requiring hospital intensive care.