Singapore to increase coronavirus testing for foreign workers

Singapore to increase coronavirus testing for foreign workers
By Gurdip Singh

Singapore, Apr 27 () Singapore government said on Monday that it will ramp up the coronavirus testing for foreign workers living in dormitories that have emerged as the hotspots for the transmission of the disease in the country.


A total of 21,000 migrant workers living in dormitories have been tested since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said Singapore was testing some 3,000 foreign workers daily.

He dismissed a report that Singapore had reduced the volume of COVID-19 testing for migrant workers, a good number of them from India.

"Let me say that this is not true," Gan was quoted by The Straits Times as saying in response to a news report over the weekend.

"Our testing capacity for migrant workers is about 3,000 a day. We have not reduced it. Instead, we have been increasing the capacity of testing of our migrant workers. The rate of testing has not slowed," Gan stressed at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference.


"This means that one in 15 migrant workers in dormitories have been tested," Gan said.

"This is far higher than the testing rates seen in other countries like Korea, which is one in 19," Gan pointed out.

The authorities started testing at dormitories where there were a high number of cases detected. They are now testing at other dormitories as cases emerge, including at factory-converted dormitories, he said.

"We are also actively testing around confirmed cases in these dormitories, where new cases are starting to emerge in an effort to isolate cases and contain the further transmission," he said.

For dormitories where the assessed rate of infection is "extremely high", efforts are focused on isolating those who are symptomatic, even without a confirmed COVID-19 test, the minister explained.


"This allows us to quickly provide medical care to these patients," he added.

Testing serves important objectives such as diagnosing patients, to provide them with appropriate treatment and care and carrying out contact tracing so to limit and control the spread, he said.

Singapore is testing more than 8,000 people a day, up from 2,900 a day previously.

Targeted testing is being implemented for selected groups, such as essential workers and staff of institutions such as nursing homes, who come into close contact with the vulnerable elderly.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong pointed out that the capability to build up more testing capacity is critical as Singapore seeks to eventually resume and restart its economy.


"But an important point to note is that testing, while as critical and important as it is, cannot be a substitute for personal responsibility and safe distancing measures," he said.

"So, we go back to the fundamentals and ask everyone, during this period, to stay home, uphold good personal hygiene," stressed Wong.

There were 799 new cases of the coronavirus in Singapore as of noon on Monday, according to the preliminary figures from the Health Ministry. Most of them were work permit holders staying in dormitories. Fourteen were Singaporeans (citizens) or permanent residents (foreigners).

Around 300,000 low-wage workers, mostly from South Asia, work in Singapore in construction and maintenance. Most of them live together in huge dormitory complexes.

Though the dormitories are being disinfected and bedding accommodation re-arranged, most of these were overcrowded, leading to a large number of cases as foreign workers are now undergoing screening and testing.


All foreign workers in the construction sector have been placed on mandatory stay-home notices until May 4 as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19.

Singapore is now in an extended "circuit breaker" period to stem the spread of the disease. The period was extended to June 1 from the first set to end on May 4. GS NSA

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