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5,500 workers tested across dorms, worksites in precautionary move

This article is more than 12 months old

This is part of a pre-emptive Covid-19 testing operation after infections at Westlite Woodlands dorm

More than 5,500 workers have been tested as part of a pre-emptive Covid-19 operation across dorms and worksites, from last Friday to Monday, said Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday.

The authorities are carrying out this precautionary measure following the cluster at Westlite Woodlands dormitory, which has seven cases so far, including five who were reinfected.

In all, 26 residents at the dorm had tested positive for Covid-19, though of these cases, two subsequently tested negative while another 11 were assessed to be shedding virus fragments.

Among the more than 5,500 workers tested are those who went to the same worksite as the Westlite Woodlands cases, and workers from other dorms who came into contact with them.

These tests are in addition to the rostered routine testing conducted on dorm residents every 14 days, and include workers who have recovered from previous infections and those who have never been infected, said MOM in a statement.

The pre-emptive operation was carried out by the MOM's Assurance, Care and Engagement Group, along with the Ministry of Health, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Economic Development Board.

The precautionary testing operation comes after a group of reinfected workers were detected at the Westlite Woodlands purpose-built dorm recently. After a special testing operation, 24 recovered workers initially tested positive.

Two of them had negative results after retesting. Five were determined to be likely cases of reinfection, while 11 were assessed to be shedding virus fragments, which are no longer infective. The remaining six cases are being assessed.

The first of the seven cases that formed the cluster is a 35-year-old Bangladeshi construction supervisor who was confirmed to have Covid-19 on April 19. The other cases are his roommates.

There is currently no evidence of transmission to the rest of the dormitory.

MOM said yesterday that precautionary steps have been taken. The BCA has stepped up inspections on safety measures at construction worksites as well.

Dorm residents can still use in-dormitory communal facilities and recreation centres, but access will be regulated to reduce mingling among workers. Movement between dormitory blocks continues to be disallowed.

"Workers have also been advised to cease social interactions with others who do not reside in the same room or floor," said MOM.

Affected workers will continue to be paid their salaries for the duration of the quarantine, and their period of absence will be treated as paid hospitalisation leave, as part of workers' leave eligibility.

"MOM appreciates the contributions and cooperation of our migrant workers as we do our best to protect them by decisively managing potential clusters of infection... Measures such as quarantine are not conducted for longer than necessitated by public health reasons."

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.