Migrant workers fear massive Singapore dormitory lockdown is coronavirus time bomb
SINGAPORE/DHAKA: Migrant workers living in vast Singapore dormitories cut off from the outside world due to the coronavirus outbreak fear their cramped and squalid quarters are fast becoming a hotbed for infection.
Singapore on Sunday said it had quarantined nearly 20,000 workers in two dormitories, made up of mainly Bangladeshi and other South Asian manual workers, after they were linked to at least 90 infections.
The government said the action was needed to prevent broader transmission in the city-state - which is closing schools and offices this week due to a spike in cases - and said it had taken measures to reduce worker interaction in the dormitories and ensure they received salary, meals and medical support.
But the move has been criticised by rights groups and others who say it may be discriminatory and risks exposing healthy individuals to a higher chance of infection.
“If anyone is infected with the virus in our room or in our block, it is just a matter of time to catch the virus,” said Majidul Haq, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi, who stays at the S11 Dormitory @Punggol with some 13,000 other workers.
Haq and three other workers told Reuters they sleep in cramped 12-bed bunk rooms, share toilets and basins often blocked from overuse, and that cockroaches and overflowing refuse bins are a common sight.
The manager of the dormitory did not respond to a request for comment. The government’s manpower ministry said on Monday it was working with the dormitory operators to prioritise the wellbeing of workers, including stepping up cleaning.
“We seek the public’s understanding and patience as we work with the dormitory operators to resolve the ground challenges,” the ministry said.
When Reuters visited the Punggol site on Monday, six police cars lined the road outside the purpose-built, low-rise complex and a police tent had been erected at its entrance. The only activity came from the coming and going of several ambulances and masked workers ferrying rubbish into large plastic bins. – Reuters