Friday, October 22, 2021

Singapore to ease virus curbs for migrant workers

Under a pilot programme to launch Monday, up to 500 vaccinated workers will be allowed to visit selected locations for six hours each week.

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Singapore will from next week begin easing movement restrictions on migrant workers living in dormitories, authorities said Thursday, over a year after they were implemented to curb coronavirus outbreaks.

The vast, self-contained dormitory complexes are home to more than 200,000 foreign workers, mainly from South Asia, who work in jobs like construction and maintenance.

Virus outbreaks tore through the sites in the early stages of the pandemic, shining a harsh spotlight on the prosperous city-state’s treatment of the low-paid migrants.

Authorities imposed movement curbs in April last year, and since then the workers have for the most part only been allowed to travel between their dorms and places of work.

Under a pilot programme to launch Monday, up to 500 vaccinated workers will be allowed to visit selected locations for six hours each week, the labour ministry said.

They will need to take a virus test before the visit, and three days afterwards, with the scheme to be evaluated after a month, it said.

The decision was taken after vaccination rates among workers living in dorms reached over 90 percent, the ministry said.

But Alex Au, vice-president of migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too, criticised the plan as not going far enough, as so few workers will be able to participate.

“It’s a drop in the ocean,” he told AFP. “It is way too timid, it’s actually going to cause more frustration.”

The majority of Singapore’s virus infections have been among migrant workers.

But the city-state has largely been successful at keeping its outbreak in check, reporting only about 70,000 infections and 55 deaths.

There has been an uptick in recent weeks driven by the more contagious Delta variant, but most infections have been outside the dorms.

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