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More migrant workers return to work, while some get exit passes for dorms

The Independent logo The Independent 14/8/2020 Anna Maria Romero
a group of people riding on the back of a truck © The Independent Singapore

Singapore—With two straight days of less than 100 new Covid-19 cases, more and more migrant workers in the country may find life returning to normal, which should help alleviate some of the workers’ concerns and fears.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced, along with other government agencies, that all the workers living in purpose-built dormitories have been tested for the coronavirus. However, according to the MOM, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the Economic Development Board, and the Health Promotion Board (HPB), businesses that have foreign workers among their employees must have them tested for the coronavirus once every fortnight.

On Tuesday (Aug 11), the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported only 61 new cases, the first time the daily case count had been down to two figures in months. And on Wednesday (Aug 12), the MOH reported only 42 new coronavirus cases.

And while the country’s case count is now at 55,395, the vast majority of those cases were found among foreign workers living in the dormitories.

The workers may now be looking forward to a return to more normalcy. On August 12, the BCA announced that companies with foreign construction workers may go back to work, which means a return to job sites for 40,000 workers. The BCA will continue with efforts to minimize further infection outbreaks, however, with on-site audits and inspections.

But the BCA also announced that businesses may resume work outside of the construction site and supply works premises without the need to seek approval from the authority, even though contractors still need to get approval from BCA for getting workers to the job sites. Over 3,300 construction site projects have been approved for restarting work.

This is welcome news for the construction sector, which has been hard-hit during this pandemic. The Business Times reported that the construction sector may face a decline of at least 10 percent.

Other signs that life is returning to normalcy for migrant workers is that some who live in dormitories cleared of the coronavirus can apply for exit passes to visit recreation centres on their days off this month.

This is part of “small-scale trials” that will allow the workers to go out and buy groceries, remit money, and other such personal errands, according to MOM on August 12.

This was the next step to take after the dormitories had been cleared, MOM said, “to work towards allowing dormitory residents to leave for leisure and personal errands, while keeping them safe from COVID-19.”

Even as the country entered Phase 2 of the circuit breaker mid-June, migrant workers have been required to remain in their dormitories during their rest days.

According to MOM, the ministry “recognises that such social activity is important for the mental well-being of the residents. The eventual goal is to allow residents from cleared dorms to enjoy their rest days without movement restrictions.

We will move towards this goal in a measured way because we need to ensure that the residents and the broader community are kept safe and healthy.” —/TISG

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