Foreign workers’ dormitories played a substantial role in the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in Singapore last year. Life in close proximity, along with other factors, made the dorms turn swiftly into the eye of the storm. Singaporeans breathed a collective sigh of relief, therefore, when all dormitories, with the exception of 17 blocks in six purpose-built dormitories which served as quarantine facilities, were declared to be clear of the coronavirus as at Aug 11. That declaration brought to a close a four-month-long effort by the authorities after a number of dormitories were first gazetted as isolation areas last April. Consequently, four in five workers in the construction, marine and process sectors, which had been affected disproportionately by the coronavirus, were given the green light to resume work. For the workers, that development signalled the beginning of a return to normal. They could continue to make a living and, in the process, contribute to Singapore’s economic development. The recovery from Covid-19 in stricken dorms represented an essential plank in the country’s overall fight against the disease last year.
It is in that spirit that the authorities are acting swiftly again to check any spread of infections in dorms now. Covid-19 safeguards for migrant workers will be tightened immediately after a new cluster of cases was detected at Westlite Woodlands dorm earlier this week. The objective of the move is to stop new variants of the virus in the dorms from leaking into the larger community. There is no evidence that the recent cases at the dorm are linked to a new Covid-19 strain from India, which is suffering from a vicious second wave of the disease.