180,000 foreign workers and dependants put on stay-home notices, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

180,000 foreign workers and dependants put on stay-home notices

This article is more than 12 months old

Move aims to prevent further transmission of virus, but employers can apply for exemptions

Around 180,000 foreign workers in the construction industry and their dependants will be on stay-home notices (SHNs) starting today, as the number of coronavirus infections continues to rise.

The notices apply mostly to work permit holders and their dependants, as well as those on S Passes, and who are currently not living in dormitories.

The figure, given by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) yesterday in response to queries from The Straits Times, comes after Saturday's announcement that all work permit and S Pass holders in the construction industry will undergo a mandatory 14-day SHN from today to May 4.

This move, which aims to prevent further transmission of the virus at work sites, excludes workers staying in dormitories gazetted as isolation areas, or any foreign employees' dormitory, as special arrangements have already been made for them.

There are 284,300 work permit holders in the construction industry.

The 180,000 workers and their dependants affected by the SHN requirement are now staying in factory-converted dormitories, temporary quarters on construction sites and private residential premises such as shophouses.

About 27,000 - or 15 per cent - mostly S Pass holders and their dependants live in Housing Board flats.

They also include a "small percentage" of the 7,000 healthy workers who have been moved to alternative living areas, said MOM, such as military camps, floating hotels and sports halls.

However, employers can apply for some of their workers to be exempted to carry out essential services, such as mosquito control at construction sites.

Such appeals will have to be approved by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), and the number of workers allowed to leave their residences during the SHN period to do such works will be limited, according to an advisory.

In addition, employers who previously had workers classified as essential have to reapply to BCA to be exempted again, as the latest SHN rule supersedes earlier approvals.

Yesterday, another 596 cases of Covid-19 infections were reported, bringing the national total to 6,588.

The vast majority are work permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also said yesterday that worker dormitories able to accommodate 2,900 people are being built in Changi East.

Photos on Mr Khaw's Facebook post showed what looked like prefabricated dorms being built, with double-deck bunk beds and a gym with a cross-trainer and weights.

The dorms will house workers building Changi Airport's Terminal 5. Mr Khaw noted that most construction projects nationwide have been suspended but "some urgent projects", such as Changi's third runway, have been exempted.

The Ministry of Defence also said yesterday that it is recruiting former Singapore Armed Forces regulars to support the teams deployed at foreign worker dormitories.