The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) investigated claims about the current living conditions of migrant workers in the Westlite dormitory at Jalan Tukang in Jurong on Oct. 13 and found that there were delays in transporting positive Covid-19 cases to care or recovery facilities.
This was after an article published on Chinese portal Weixin on Oct. 12, highlighting the scenes on the ground.
The article first mentioned the alleged issues within the dormitory, including breaches of Covid-19 health protocols, workers' inaccessibility to medical support, and poor quality of food.
In response to Mothership's queries, a MOM spokesperson said it is aware of the online article, and officers from MOM’s Forward Assurance and Support Teams (FAST) were deployed to the dormitory on Oct. 13.
The Singapore Police Force also responded to a call for assistance to the dormitory at about 12:55 pm that day.
Claims made in the Chinese article
The article on Weixin highlighted alleged complaints from migrant workers living in the dormitory.
There were multiple screen shots of conversations by workers about the alleged breaches in Covid-19 health protocols, where confirmed Covid-19 cases were not isolated from other workers, but put in the same room.
It was also mentioned that other workers still continued to work as per usual, despite being in close contact with patients in their dormitory.
Due to the lack of isolation between patients and other workers, some confirmed cases chose to sleep outside of their rooms and even outdoors to not spread the virus to the rest of the workers.
Personnel dressed in full body protective gear came around frequently to take away those who were severely ill, according to the article, painting a grim picture on the ground.
In addition, the article claimed that medical resources were in short supply.
It is apparently difficult to get medication when one is sick in the dorm.
A worker mentioned that it took him five days to receive his medication, stating in a text conversation that "the company does not care".
"It feels hard to protect our lives inside here. And it feels like our dignity is being trampled on," read the text messages in the image above.
Another issue highlighted was the poor quality of food given.
The workers had allegedly found insects, pieces of newspaper, and hair in their meals.
In this text message that was published by the article, a worker alleged that the rice and dishes had no nutrients and they were too little.
"My stomach is beginning to give me problems, the food doesn't have the vitamins and the nutrients that my body needs."
"MOM’s preliminary investigations found that there were indeed some delays in conveying workers who tested positive for Covid-19 from their rooms to a care or recovery facility to recover," said the ministry's spokesperson.
They are currently working on transferring those who require further medical care to the appropriate healthcare facilities for treatment.
To prevent a further spread of the virus, roommates of positive cases are only allowed to return to work upon producing a negative Antigen Rapid Test (ART) result.
MOM also stated that dormitory residents who wish to see a doctor will be conveyed to a Regional Medical Centre on a daily basis and have access to telemedicine.
They have also deployed mobile clinical teams on site to augment the care needs of workers, when necessary.
In addition, MOM has highlighted workers' feedback on the quality of food to employers: "The employer has since engaged the workers about the issue, and to find out if they have other concerns."
"MOM will continue to work with all stakeholders including dormitory operators and employers to take care of and ensure the well-being of our migrant workers. We also seek feedback from workers through the existing channels, such as through our FAST officers on-ground or through the dormitory operator."
Armoured police vehicles deployed at the dormitory
A video posted on a Facebook page, Gowhereforsg, showed about 100 workers, supposedly from Westlite Jalan Tukang, gathered and listening to an announcement made by a man in a blue t-shirt holding a megaphone.It is, however, unclear what the man was saying in the video.
The Facebook post wrote:
"There are commotions (sic) among/from migrant workers where police were on stand-by in full force with many Special Operations Command Troop Tactical Vehicles (TTV) and Police Force Tenix S600 Armoured Personnel Carriers deployed."
CNA confirmed this, stating that there were four Special Operations Command vehicles and several other armoured police vehicles seen along the roads outside the premise.
There were also police officers in protective gear and officers in red berets present at the scene.
CNA also noted that the dormitory entrance was barricaded with riot shields and guarded by police personnel wearing personal protective equipment.
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Top images from westlite.com.sg and Gowhereforsg/FB.