On Sep. 9, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that it will gradually ease movement restrictions for migrant workers living in dormitories from Sep. 13.
A vaccination-differentiated approach will be adopted, whereby unvaccinated individuals are required to ensure stricter safe management measures (SMMs) or undergo additional testing to protect themselves and others around them.
Clusters in the community and migrant worker dormitories will be detected from time to time as Singapore transits towards Covid resilience, MOM said in a press release.
With over 90 per cent of workers haveing completed the full regimen of the vaccination and the implementation of a multi-layered strategy to test, detect, and contain the spread of Covid-19, MOM added that it is now better prepared to handle dormitory outbreaks.
Recreation centre visits
All migrant workers will be able to visit recreation centres (RCs) more frequently — up to two times a week.
They will be able to visit the RCs within 48 hours of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or 24 hours of a negative Antigen Rapid Test (ART).
If they wish to visit the RCs a second time in the same week outside of the baseline test windows, they can do so with a negative ART test that can be done at the RC.
Visits to the RCs were suspended temporarily during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) and were resumed in July for once a week.
MOM will work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to introduce activities such as movie screenings, wellness, sporting and leisure events, and religious services at the RCs and in the dormitories.
Organised excursions by NGOs for vaccinated migrant workers to local attractions will resume and participants will take pre-event ARTs.
These outings have been suspended since Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).
Vaccinated migrant workers will be allowed to visit the community as part of a pilot.
Migrant workers have not been allowed to visit the wider community since April 2020, more than a year ago.
It will start with allowing up to 500 vaccinated workers to visit pre-identified locations for six hours each week.
These workers come from dormitories with:
- good Safe Living Measures,
- no positive Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks, and
- high vaccination rates.
Workers will have to take an ART before and three days after the visit.
The first identified location is Little India.
MOM will evaluate the pilot after a month to see how to safely expand the scope and scale of these community visits.
During a media doorstop at Westlite Mandai dormitory on Sep. 9, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon explained that the initial plan for the community visits is to spread workers across three days of the week — Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Each day will have two time slots, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and roughly 80 workers will be allocated to each time slot.
While in Little India, Koh said, they will be subjected to the same safe management measures as expected of others in Singapore, such as limits on the number of diners, maintaining a safe distance, and performing SafeEntry.
Koh added that Safe Distancing Ambassadors will be deployed in the Little India area to monitor the migrant workers at all times, to ensure that they maintain distance between each other.
In response to a question about the conditions that will put a stop to this trial, Koh said that the biggest "black swan" event would be the emergence of a new variant which would "throw every calculation off the mark".
Barring that, however, Koh said that even if asymptomatic or mild cases of infection were to emerge, he thinks that the risks can be managed without the need to abolish the trial or "lock down dorms again".
Two migrant workers who spoke with media emphasised the importance of maintaining safe distancing protocol while out in the community. One worker, from India, said that he was most excited to go to the temple, as he has not been for over a year. The other, from Bangladesh, expressed the desire to remit money to his family back home.
MOM said that it has adopted a calibrated approach for the gradual easing of movement restrictions in order to manage public health risks.
It has put in place the necessary safeguards to protect public health and prevent cross-infection between the community and dormitories, and will monitor the situation to further ease the measures progressively and safely when conditions permit.
Top images by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images and Yu Sef via Google Maps.
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