Plans to relax restrictions on migrant workers’ movements on hold amid recent dorm Covid-19 cluster

Prisca Ang – The Straits Times (

SINGAPORE – Plans to relax restrictions on the movements of migrant workers have been put on hold, given the recent dormitory cluster and surge in infections in some of the workers’ home countries, Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said on Sunday (May 2).

“It’s important because our responsibility is, first and foremost, to protect the lives and health of all of us, migrant workers, the industry and livelihoods,” Dr Tan, the incoming Manpower Minister, said at a site visit to the newly set-up Seletar Vaccination Centre.

He added: “The last thing we want is for everyone to relax and go out into the community, and then it sparks another wave. I think then we’ll be much worse off. So with an abundance of caution, we decided to delay that and we want to see how this (situation) continues.”

A pilot scheme was announced last December for migrant workers in some dormitories to be in the community once a month. It was slated to start in the first quarter of this year, subject to workers’ compliance with rostered routine testing, wearing contact tracing devices, and safe living measures.

Dr Tan said on Sunday that restrictions were initially planned to be eased in April.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who was also visiting the centre, said Singapore is in a phase of heightened vigilance.

“I think we don’t want to rush things… We want to enable employers as well to support workers in a broad range of their needs, including their recreational needs, but we need to be careful not to take one step forward and two steps back.”

Pre-emptive Covid-19 tests are being carried out in dormitories and worksites, following a new cluster of infections at Westlite Woodlands dormitory.

There has also been a spike in community cases, with 14 more confirmed on Sunday, most of them patients linked to a nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. There were none from the workers’ dorms.

(From left) Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng and Minister for ManpowerJosephine Teo share a lighthearted moment with a  foreign worker as he receives his Covid-19 vaccination at the Seletar Vaccination Centre on May 2, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Giving an update on vaccinations for migrant workers, Dr Tan said 42,000 of them – 13 to 15 per cent of the total migrant worker population in dormitories – have been vaccinated.

He added that the vaccination drive for these workers will proceed in tandem with that for the rest of the population.

Two new vaccination centres – the one at Seletar and another at National Service Resort and Country Club – were set up last month to cater to workers from dormitories that might not have ample facilities for vaccination drives.

These centres have a capacity of 1,000 vaccinations a day.