SINGAPORE – Plans to relax the restrictions on the movements of foreign workers will be implemented progressively, when more of them have been vaccinated and infection rates remain under control, said the multi-ministry task force co-chair Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (March 24).
He was responding to questions raised at a press conference on why migrant workers were subject to stricter measures than the rest of the population, and when they would be allowed to move about more freely.
A pilot scheme was announced last December for foreign workers in some dormitories to be in the community once a month, starting in the first quarter of this year. This would be subject to their compliance with rostered routine testing, wearing contact tracing devices, and safe living measures.
The task force did not comment on the time frame of the pilot scheme’s roll-out.
Even though the number of Covid-19 cases has fallen considerably among the foreign worker population, Mr Wong said that the “circumstances in the dormitories” are such that they remain places where a single case could spread to many other workers.
This is in spite of the safe management measures in place, along with efforts to reduce the density of the dormitories.
“It’s not just the living environment, (but) also the work environment, where, in construction, for example, despite our best efforts having different zones avoid intermingling of workers, it’s very hard to really make sure that there is that kind of segregation taking place all the time,” he said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had also said in a BBC broadcast on March 14 that it is too much of a risk to have foreign workers from dormitories mixing freely with the general population, as Covid-19 is still circulating in Singapore.
Because of this, the Government is taking a very cautious approach on this front, though the measures will be progressively eased when the time comes, said Mr Wong.
There have been four new Covid-19 cases in the dormitories this year, with the latest on Feb 28.
He also noted that some measures have already been relaxed, with workers being allowed to spend more time at recreational centres purpose-built for them.
The Ministry of Health announced on March 8 that vaccinations had begun for 10,000 residents of the country’s five largest dormitories, and they would be progressively made available to all migrant workers.
Workers who have been fully vaccinated will be tested every 28 days instead of on the current 14-day cycle.