S'pore govt has 'not reduced Covid-19 testing', 21,000 migrant workers in dorms tested thus far

An average of 2,900 tests were previously conducted daily, but that number has now hit around 8,000.

Ashley Tan | April 27, 2020, 07:49 PM

Despite recent comments that the government has scaled down its testing of foreign workers for Covid-19, resulting in a drop in cases reported, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said these are not true.

Instead, he said on Monday at a Multi-Ministry Taskforce press conference, the rate and total number of migrant workers tested has actually increased.

Thus far, he said, a total of 21,000 migrant workers living in dormitories have been tested since the start of the outbreak. This means that around one in 15 of Singapore's 323,000 migrant workers residing in dormitories have been tested.

Gan revealed that at the national level, the ministry has been steadily ramping up their testing capacity as well — an average of 2,900 tests were previously conducted daily, but that number has now hit around 8,000.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has also been testing close to 3,000 migrant workers residing at the dormitories every day.

Advanced technologies like new test kits are being used to scale up testing as well.

Bulk of reported cases continue to be from foreign worker dormitories

The bulk of Covid-19 cases are now centred on numerous clusters located at migrant worker dormitories.

On Apr. 27, 886 out of the 931 new cases reported by the Ministry of Health were Work Permit holders residing in dormitories.

At least 13 foreign worker clusters are linked to more than 100 cases, with the S11 dormitory cluster being the largest at more than 2,000.

This immense and continued spike in cases is due to "aggressive testing" being carried out at dormitories, as Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong highlighted in a previous press conference.

Ramping up testing of migrant workers

These testing efforts are part of Singapore's"comprehensive strategy" to take care of migrant workers in the dormitories.

In recent days though, Singapore saw a slight drop in the number of Covid-19 cases reported each day.

Where the daily number used to be above 1,000, the past three days reported less than 1,000 cases — 897, 618 and 931 from Apr. 24 to Apr. 26 respectively.

Testing of workers outside dormitories, and frontline workers too

In dormitories where the rate of infection is high, Gan said government efforts will be focused on isolating those with Covid-19 symptoms, even if they have yet to be confirmed positive following tests.

This, said Gan, is to ensure medical care is quickly and efficiently provided to these workers.

Apart from testing in dormitories with a high number of cases, testing will also be conducted in other dormitories as new cases emerge, Gan said.

This includes factory-converted dormitories as well.

Testing of workers residing outside of dormitories will also be a priority — this means conducting tests on workers working in essential services.

Wong added that testing will also be expanded beyond foreign workers, such as frontline workers in healthcare and those working in homes looking after seniors.

This is to ensure the "well-being of our essential workforce and also to protect seniors and vulnerable members of the public," Wong said.

Gan said that expanding testing to more individuals is crucial, "as we start to open up after the circuit breaker measures".

Wong emphasised that testing was not a substitute for social responsibility and safe distancing measures, and that ultimately, it is still the individual that can play a part to reduce transmission of the virus.

"This capability to ramp up to build up more testing capacity is critical, as we seek eventually to resume and restart our economy, but an important point to note is that testing, while as critical and important as it is, cannot be a substitute for personal responsibility and safe distancing measures.

So we go back to the fundamentals and ask everyone during this period, to stay home, uphold good personal hygiene, and for those who are in the essential workforce, even as we start to test more of these people who are working, anyone who is now in essential workforce should still continue to take precautions meaning to say, as they go to work, minimise contact with their colleagues, don't go to work, and then end up socialising during lunch break, or during rest, during break times and the pantry or outside the workplace. Minimise all contact, go to work, go back home. And if you're not feeling well it's critical. Don't go to work."

Top photo via JurongHealth Campus Facebook page