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20,000 foreign workers to be quarantined in dorms to stem virus spread

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Around 20,000 foreign workers to be quarantined for 14 days

Two dormitories with large numbers of coronavirus cases have been gazetted as isolation areas, as part of measures announced yesterday to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

This means around 20,000 workers at S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite in Toh Guan will be quarantined in their rooms for the next 14 days.

In addition, measures will be taken to reduce the interaction of workers in other dormitories. These include preventing workers from intermingling between different blocks and floors, and staggering meal and recreation times.

The Government will also house foreign workers providing essential services separately.

The moves come after the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed a record 120 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, of which four were imported and 116 local.

This brings Singapore's total to 1,309 cases.

Of the new cases, 22 are linked to S11 Dormitory @ Punggol at 2 Seletar North Link. Also known as PPT Lodge 1B, it now has at least 63 confirmed cases.

Another 10 have been linked to Westlite Toh Guan dormitory at 18 Toh Guan Road East, which now has at least 28 confirmed cases.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said workers there will continue to be paid during this period, and that they will still be able to make remittances to their families back in their home countries. They will also have all meals provided.

Dormitories are a growing area of concern in the outbreak, and made up three of the four new clusters announced on Saturday.

Mrs Teo noted that workers interact very regularly, and hence there is the risk of transmission. Any workers living in dorms who are unwell will be relocated and housed separately at sick bays as a precaution, even if they do not test positive for the coronavirus, she added.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force battling the coronavirus, said foreign workers are not inherently at higher risk of transmitting the virus compared to locals.

"It's not an issue of targeting a particular group... The issue we are facing here is that dormitories... have now emerged as a cluster of infection," he said.

There are now two separate strategies for tackling the spread of local cases, said Mr Wong, one for the wider community and another for dormitories. From tomorrow, foreign workers living in all dormitories will have to stay within their premises, he said.

He urged Singapore residents to take the strict measures that kick in tomorrow very seriously, and leave their homes only for essential activities like buying food.