SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned that more coronavirus cases could come up at packed dormitories that house foreign workers, including several Indian nationals.
While efforts have been made to break the chain of transmission in foreign worker dormitories, it will take some time to show results, Lee said on Saturday.
“The migrant workers who are ill are getting the medical treatment they need. Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild, because the workers are young. Our healthcare teams continue to monitor their conditions,” assured Prime Minister Lee in a Facebook post.
A large proportion of Singapore’s Covid-19 cases can be traced to foreign worker dormitories, which have seen a surge in confirmed cases recently.
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.
Among the latest coronavirus cases is a 28-year-old Indian man working at a hospital who has no recent travel history to affected countries or regions.
He reported onset of symptoms on April 15, and subsequent test results confirmed Covid-19 infection on April 17. He is currently warded at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Meanwhile, Singapore health ministry said 893 of the 942 new cases on Saturday are work permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories, while another 27 foreign workers are those living outside dormitories.
Within the local community, there are 22 cases, comprising 14 Singaporeans and permanent residents, as well as foreigners being six work pass holders, one dependant’s pass holder and one person on a long-term visit pass.
The number of new cases in the community has gone down, from an average of 40 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 31 per day in the past week.
The number of unlinked cases in the community, however, has increased slightly, from an average of 19 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 22 per day in the past week.
“We will continue to monitor the numbers carefully as the circuit breaker period continues. The contact tracing and epidemiology teams are working to identify the source of infection for the unlinked cases, but this will become increasingly difficult as time passes,” said the ministry. It added that of the new cases, 79 per cent are linked to known clusters, while the rest are pending contact tracing.
A total of 38 more patients have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities, bringing the total number of recoveries in Singapore to 740.
Most of the 2,563 cases remaining in hospital are stable or improving. Twenty-three of them are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Another 2,678 cases who are clinically well but still testing positive for Covid-19 are currently isolated and cared for at community facilities.
“So, we must expect to see more dorm cases for a while longer. But we are building up our healthcare and isolation facilities to handle the load,” he added.
Thirteen of such dormitories have so far been declared isolation areas, meaning that the workers will not be allowed to leave their rooms for 14 days.
Saturday marked day 12 of Singapore’s month-long “circuit breaker” – a period with enhanced safe distancing measures in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19. Most workplaces are closed and schools have transitioned to full home-based learning.
The Prime Minister said, “The next few days will be critical. All of us must do our part, in order to defeat Covid-19.”
There are “a few early signs” that the circuit breaker is bringing down local cases in the broader community.
“But we are still worried about hidden cases circulating in our population, which are keeping the outbreak going,” the Channel News Asia reported citing the Prime Minister.