Singapore seeks to contain COVID-19 outbreaks in foreign worker dorms

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Singapore fine-tuned virus measures at foreign workers dormitories as it juggled outbreaks in several facilities while trying to minimize economic disruption.

There were 412 new infections reported in foreign-worker dormitories on Saturday, bringing the total to over 5,600 since early September. Authorities said they plan to increase testing and will revise quarantine orders to “reduce the extent and duration of work disruptions” while protecting public health.

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Contact tracing will be tightened to those most at risk of virus exposure, reducing the need to isolate entire blocks or sections within a dormitory, the manpower ministry said Saturday. Quarantine measures will apply to just roommates of confirmed cases and shortened from 14 days to 10.

Singapore last year quelled dormitory outbreaks involving tens of thousands among its 320,000 migrant worker population, but they remained largely confined to their facilities even as the wider society saw some return to normalcy.

For over a year, they were contained, raising unfairness over the treatment and concerns of their mental health. It was only last month that authorities eased their movement restrictions under a pilot scheme that allowed batches of them to visit pre-identified locations.

The manpower ministry said that it will require asymptomatic, vaccinated workers to quarantine in dedicated facilities within the dormitories.

Officials separately announced in a press briefing Saturday that the country will be resuming entry approvals for domestic workers and foreign labor working in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors from higher risk countries, as long as they are fully vaccinated before arrival.

Record Deaths

There were 2,356 new infections reported Saturday, bringing the country’s tally to 101,786 and with 107 deaths.

While cabinet ministers have committed to “living with the virus in Singapore, where four of every five residents are fully vaccinated, the current outbreak and its record numbers has challenged the pledge.”

The health ministry published a map Friday detailing areas frequently visited by infected patients to guide people’s social activities and allay their concerns.

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