Written Answer by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng to PQ on Relaxation Of Movement Restriction Orders On Migrant Workers Staying In Dormitories
NOTICE PAPER NO. 669 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 14 SEPTEMBER 2021
QUESTION NO. 1660 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry will consider allowing fully vaccinated workers living in dormitories back into the community under strict safe management measures; (b) if so, when; and (c) if not, why not.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 712 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 14 SEPTEMBER 2021
QUESTION NO. 1680 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Ms Sylvia Lim
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what caused the recent COVID-19 outbreak in foreign worker dormitories such as North Coast Lodge; (b) how are workers monitored to ensure that they leave the dormitories only for approved purposes; and (c) whether locking down dormitories continues to be justified in the light of the Government’s strategy to treat COVID-19 as endemic.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 681 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 14 SEPTEMBER 2021
QUESTION NO. 1741 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Mr Pritam Singh
To ask the Minister for Manpower when will foreign workers who are currently isolated in dormitories be reintegrated with the wider society.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 711 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 14 SEPTEMBER 2021
QUESTION NO. 1691 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Dr Shahira Abdullah
To ask the Minister for Manpower with regard to the status of mental wellness of migrant workers in dormitories (a) what is the expected timeline in which the movement restriction orders on migrant workers in dormitories can be relaxed; and (b) what are the future plans to manage the mental wellness of these workers.
Many Members have filed questions related to the easing of restrictions for migrant workers. I would like to take these questions together.
Over the past few months, there have been several active clusters in the community and in the dormitories such as North Coast Lodge, attributable to the more infectious Delta variant. Based on phylogenetics analysis, we understand that the SARS-CoV-2 strain at North Coast Lodge is similar to that of the cluster at Jurong Fishery Port, which has resulted in other clusters seen in the community.
Most of the infections amongst fully vaccinated persons have been mild or asymptomatic. The evidence suggests that fully vaccinated individuals recover faster and are protected against serious disease. There continues to be strong evidence that vaccination is protective against severe illness. We are thus in a better position to manage outbreaks as dormitories are now more resilient in a few ways.
First, over 90% of migrant workers residing in dormitories are fully vaccinated, similar to that of the adult population in the general community. Second, we have instituted a multi-layer strategy to quickly detect, isolate and contain the spread of COVID-19 within dormitories. This includes surveillance using wastewater testing, ensuring compliance to Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) and surveillance on workers with acute respiratory illness (ARI) symptoms. Third, we have implemented Safe Living Measures (SLM) and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) audits to ensure that preventive measures are well adhered to.
These measures have effectively limited the risks of transmission and allowed us to quickly detect COVID-19 cases which are mostly mild and asymptomatic. We have also provided workers assurance and care regarding their protection from COVID-19 and healthcare even if they do get infected. This helps to provide the workers with relief from worry, fear and stress from the disease.
Since August last year, migrant workers residing in dormitories have been able to work, visit the Recreation Centres (RCs) for leisure and supplies. Migrant workers are required to apply for an exit pass via their SGWorkPass App to visit the RCs. For essential errands, employers will submit a request to MOM for approval. These requirements are clearly spelled out to both migrant workers and employers. Dormitory operators are also required to conduct checks when migrant workers leave the dormitories. MOM conducts checks for compliance.
As we transit towards a COVID resilient nation, we must not lift these restrictions too quickly and risk unwinding the gains we have so painstakingly made in the last one year. We are also concerned that high vaccination rates and earlier low infections in the dormitories could result in complacency and a re-ignition of cases. MOM’s strategy is therefore to take a careful and calibrated approach to the easing of movement restrictions for migrant workers. We are very mindful of the well-being of migrant workers, but are also responsible for safeguarding their health. First, we have substantially eased restrictions within the dormitories, and have allowed a range of social activities subject to group size restrictions and Safe Management Measures. Second, we will also increase the frequency for workers to visit RCs. Concurrently, we are working with RC operators and community partners, to introduce programmes and new offerings to make RC visits more engaging. Third, we will pilot community visits with guided itinerary for vaccinated workers to places of interest. We will monitor and adjust the frequency and scope of these community visits.