Starting next week, Singapore will ease movement restrictions for migrant workers living in dormitories, the authorities announced on Thursday (Sep 9). This is after more than a year the curbs were imposed due to a surge in infections in their often cramped quarters.
The statement released by the manpower ministry came after more than 90% of the workers in dormitories were fully vaccinated. This number is higher than Singapore’s overall vaccination rate at 81%, which is one of the highest in the world.
In its announcement, the ministry said up to 500 vaccinated migrant workers will be allowed to visit pre-identified public locations for six hours each week. However, they are still required to take a rapid COVID-19 antigen test before and three days after. The ministry would evaluate the pilot scheme after a month, it added.
“Together with the implementation of a multi-layered strategy to test, detect and contain the spread of COVID-19, we are now better prepared to handle any outbreaks at the dormitories,” said the ministry.
Additionally, all other migrant workers will be allowed to visit recreation centers up to twice a week, and organized excursions by non-governmental organizations for vaccinated migrant workers to local attractions will resume, Reuters reports.
At the moment, most migrant workers are confined to their living quarters. They are only allowed to go out for work, nearby recreation or essential errands.
The Southeast Asian financial hub had imposed strict movement curbs on tens of thousands of mainly South Asian low-wage laborers living in dormitories since April last year, after virus outbreaks occurred which eventually contributed to the bulk of Singapore’s more than 60,000 COVID-19 cases.
The government said at the time the action was needed to prevent broader transmission and that it had taken measures to reduce worker interaction in the dormitories and ensure they received a salary, meals and medical support.
But the quarantining of the dormitories was criticized by some rights groups, which warned last year the action may be discriminatory and risked exposing healthy individuals to a higher chance of infection.
Singapore has been reporting more than 100 infections daily over the past two weeks as it removes most restrictions as part of a phased reopening, but the majority of cases have been in the wider community, rather than in the worker dormitories.