Surge in infected cases . . .
Not so long ago the poster child for COVID-19 containment, during the past three days Singapore has reported a surge of infections with a record daily high of 1,426 new cases confirmed on Monday. This has brought the total number of infected cases in the city-state to 10,141 as of April 22, the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has extended the partial lockdown, also known as the “circuit breaker” period, until June 1. The government has imposed stricter measures, including closures of more workplaces, entry restrictions on hotspots such as wet markets, and limits on public gatherings.
The weak link . . .
Over 60 per cent of its total infections can be traced to migrant worker dormitories. Advocacy groups have voiced concerns about Singapore’s COVID-19 containment model for largely focusing on Singaporeans and ignoring migrant workers, who play a vital role in the city-state’s economy. Over 300,000 migrant workers from Bangladesh and India, who take up low-paid jobs in construction, manufacturing, and shipyards, live in 43 mega facilities and 1,200 converted factories. In these dormitories, 12-to-20 workers are typically crowded into one room, creating an ideal environment for rapid transmission. During the early days of the outbreak, the government did not actively undertake preventive measures in these dormitories and left it to the dorm operators to manage their sites, despite warnings from advocacy groups that these dormitories could be infection clusters. Also, only a limited number of tests have been conducted. The S11 Dormitory @ Punggol remains the largest infection cluster with 2,211 confirmed cases.
Intensifying containment strategy . . .
The surge of cases in the dormitories has pushed the government to conduct more onsite testing. More containment measures have been rolled out, including the lockdown of dormitories with high numbers of cases, deployment of medical teams, and the setting up of medical outposts near the dormitories. Thousands of non-infected workers have been moved out of quarantined dormitories to vacant military camps and public housing units. Singapore’s experience demonstrates to Canada that an effective response to COVID-19 must take marginalized groups into account.
- Bloomberg: How Singapore flipped from virus hero to cautionary tale
- Channel News Asia: COVID-19 infections in Singapore top 10,000 with 1,016 new cases; 12 person dies
- South Morning China Post: How did migrant worker dormitories become Singapore’s biggest coronavirus cluster?