11 purpose-built dorms to be built in the next two years

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Temporary bed spaces for 60,000 migrant workers to be ready by the year-end

Some 60,000 short-term bed spaces will be created to house foreign workers here by the end of this year in the first step towards a major overhaul of dormitories announced yesterday.

With workers living in these cramped quarters accounting for more than 90 per cent of the Covid-19 cases in Singapore, the dorms of the future will not only be designed to reduce the risk of similar outbreaks, but also to respond quickly to them.

Each worker will have more space to himself, greater hygiene discipline will be instilled among them, and better segregation practices put in place.

Short-term beds will be a step in that direction. They will reduce the density of foreign workers living in existing dormitories while help cut the risk of Covid-19 transmission among foreign workers when they leave interim facilities such as army camps, said Mr Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.

About 25,000 of these beds will be what the authorities term Quick Build Dormitories (QBDs) that can be assembled within a few months and last for two to three years.

Another 25,000 will be fitted in currently unused state properties, such as former schools and vacant factories, while the remainder will take the form of temporary quarters at construction sites.

The new QBDs will serve as a test bed for the Government to pilot improved standards for dorms before it decides on specifications for new permanent dormitories, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Five workers will share a set of toilet facilities, compared with 15 under current rules. There will be a maximum of 10 beds to a room with only single-deck beds allowed, at least a metre apart from each other. A typical dorm today has 12 to 16 workers sleeping on double-decker beds per room.

The plan is for 11 of these new purpose-built dormitories to be built in the next two years, providing more permanent lodging for these 60,000 workers, said Mr Wong, who is also National Development Minister.

More such dorms will be built in the medium term to house an additional 40,000 workers.

Yesterday, task force members repeatedly stressed the need not just for new dorms but also better practices that strengthen Singapore's resilience against pandemic risks.

"It is not just that we try and reduce the risk of widespread transmission but how we can respond more effectively when there's an outbreak," said Mrs Teo.