Workers' dorms step up measures after 3 clusters emerge
MOM issues advisory to operators to minimise risk of transmission between workers after 3 clusters emerge
Designated isolation rooms, thorough cleaning and disinfection of affected units and common areas, even security guards with body-worn cameras to deter residents from flouting safe distancing requirements.
These are some of the measures taken by dormitory operators after some premises were hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The emergence of new active clusters at three dormitories this week has put the spotlight on cuh facilities, raising concerns about how dormitory operators are dealing with the outbreak.
On Wednesday, three infections were linked to a dormitory at 55 Sungei Kadut Loop.
The cluster at S11 dormitory at Seletar North Link, reported on Monday, now has 13 cases, while the cluster at Westlite Toh Guan dormitory in Jurong East, reported on Tuesday, has 10 cases.
The cases prompted the Manpower Ministry (MOM) to issue an advisory to dormitory operators on Wednesday urging them to implement additional measures to minimise the risk of transmission between workers.
The measures, which take effect immediately until April 12, should ensure workers maintain a distance of at least one metre from one another at open spaces, dining areas and entrances.
Dormitory operators should also monitor the health of residents in blocks, limit their movements and prevent mixing of workers between blocks.
They must stagger timings for kitchen and shower use, and limit the number of people in recreational rooms and minimarts. Operators must also put up signs telling workers not to gather at common areas.
The ministry also warned that it will take action against dormitories that do not follow safe distancing requirements.
Mr Johnathan Cheah, managing director of S11 Capital Investments, which operates the Seletar North Link dormitory, said his company has been working with MOM and the Ministry of Health on preventive measures since February.
He said the dormitory's management isolates those on stay-home notices and workers on extended medical leave.
Mr Kong Chee Min, chief executive of Centurion Corporation, which runs the Westlite Toh Guan dormitory, said his team has "clear procedures" in place should workers be infected.
They will be moved from the affected unit into designated isolation rooms, and thorough cleaning and disinfection of the unit and common areas will be conducted.
All seven cases from the cluster stayed in the same apartment unit and worked for the same employer, he said.
Another dormitory told TNP it had introduced enhanced measures at its facility even before MOM's advisory. A spokesman for the dormitory in Tai Seng said: "Since a week ago, we have equipped our security guards with body-worn cameras as a deterrent measure against those who do not comply with safe distancing requirements."
Still, Mr Alex Au, vice-president of migrant workers group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), believes dormitory operators can improve how they communicate information to workers. He said: "The sense we have from interviewing workers about how they know what they know about Covid-19 is that employers are silent on this issue. Dormitory managements have put up posters, but are also largely silent."
Non-governmental organisations like TWC2, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics have provided information about new regulations and advisories to workers through posters written in their native languages.
Executive director of MWC Bernard Menon said his group has been engaging migrant workers on Covid-19 along with the Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited and the Building Construction and Timer Industries Employees' Union.
Mr Au believes dormitories are a potential hotbed for infection, as many house up to 20 workers per room. "Once someone is infected, it can easily be a situation where the infected patient spreads it to all other occupants of the room... Dorm conditions are like a ticking time bomb."