Why Covid-19 clusters forming in migrant worker dorms that have been cleared?

Many of the dormitory residents have never been infected, which makes them susceptible to Covid-19, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Joshua Lee | September 05, 2020, 05:19 PM

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo explained why new Covid-19 infections have popped up in migrant worker dormitories that were previously cleared.

She did so in a written reply to Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan who asked if there has been an error in declaring a dormitory to be cleared of the Covid-19 virus since a subsequent new cluster was found in said dormitory.

Many dormitory residents have never been infected, susceptible to new infections

"The Inter-Agency Taskforce (ITF) systematically tested all dormitory residents to clear the dormitories of Covid-19," said Teo.

"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."

According to Teo, many of the dormitory residents have never been infected, which makes them susceptible to Covid-19.

Hence, clearing a dormitory does not mean that there will never be any new infections in future, she added.

"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."

"Multi-layered strategy" for detecting and containing new infections

Teo said that the manpower ministry has a "multi-layered strategy" to detect new Covid-19 cases and contain the infections "quickly and decisively".

Dormitory operators have to implement safe-distancing measures in the dormitories by:

  1. Limiting the inter-mixing of workers across rooms, levels and blocks
  2. Scheduling access to common facilities
  3. Putting in place staggered pick-up and drop-off times for workers
  4. Ensuring safe distancing between workers.

They must also monitor their workers’ health and take necessary precautions, so that workers who are unwell — especially those with acute respiratory illnesses — are quickly isolated and provided with medical treatment.

Workers also have to monitor their health and update MOM through an app and routine testing every 14 days, among other measure.

When a new case is detected, close contacts will be quarantined and "aggressive testing operations" are conducted to arrest the spread of the virus.

Workers must test negative at the end of their quarantine before they are allowed to return to work.

"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."

Top image via MOM.