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Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to PQ on Declaring Foreign Worker Dormitories Cleared of COVID-19

NOTICE PAPER NO. 19 OF 2020 FOR THE SITTING ON 4 SEPTEMBER 2020

QUESTION NO. 29 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

MP: Mr Lim Biow Chuan

To ask the Minister for Manpower whether there has been an error in declaring a dormitory to be cleared of the COVID-19 virus when a subsequent new cluster is found to have originated from that dormitory.

Answer

  1. The Inter-Agency Taskforce (ITF) systematically tested all dormitory residents to clear the dormitories of COVID-19. This means that all dormitory residents have either recovered, have been tested to be free from the virus, or have moved to other government facilities to complete their isolation or quarantine depending on their health status.  
  2.  As many of the dormitory residents have never been infected, they remain susceptible to COVID-19. .
  3. This is why clearing a dormitory does not mean that there will never be any new infections in future. What is key is for the workers, employers, and dormitory operators to remain vigilant and continue to comply with safe distancing measures to minimise the risk of another outbreak.  
  4. To detect new COVID-19 cases and contain the infections quickly and decisively, we have also put in place a multi-layered strategy.
  5. First, to prevent potential infections, we have put in place Safe Living, Safe Working and Safe Rest Day measures. Before residents are allowed to return to work, dormitory operators have to implement a slew of physical distancing measures in the dormitory, such as: (i) limiting the inter-mixing of workers across rooms, levels and blocks; (ii) scheduling access to common facilities; (iii) putting in place staggered pick-up and drop-off times for workers; and (iv) ensuring safe distancing between workers. They must also monitor their workers’ health and take necessary precautions, so that workers who are unwell are quickly isolated and provided with medical treatment.
  6. Second, to swiftly detect new cases of infection, a number of strategies are deployed.  This include (i) self-monitoring by migrant workers and updating on their health status through the FWMOMCare App; (ii) close monitoring of workers who report sick at medical posts with acute respiratory illnesses; (iii) checking the wastewater from certain dormitories for traces of the COVID-19 virus; and (iv) rostered routine testing for dormitory residents every 14 days. 
  7. Finally, if a new case is detected, we have put in place measures to contain its spread. Close contacts will be quarantined and aggressive testing operations will be conducted to arrest a further spread of the virus. Workers must be tested negative at the end of their quarantine period before they are able to return to work.  These measures continue to be adjusted in consultation with health experts, as new insights are gained about how the virus spreads.
  8. COVID-19 remains a threat, as shown by the new infection cases in cleared dormitories. We look forward to the continued understanding, support and cooperation of all parties as we move together on the road to recovery.