KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday that 21,000 foreign workers have been tested for the new coronavirus since the start of the outbreak.
Of that total of 21,000, Ministry of Health statistics released on Sunday showed 11,419 positive test results, numbers that suggest half the roughly 320,000 workers, many of who sleep 10-20 to a room in crowded dormitories, could be infected.
The 5.8 million-population city-state had confirmed 14,423 cases of Covid-19 by Monday afternoon, meaning that around 80 per cent of the city-state’s cases are among foreign workers who live in the dormitories.
Of Monday’s 799 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, “the vast majority” were in the dormitories, according to the Ministry of Health.
Singapore had just 1,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases at the start of April but imposed a lockdown, or “circuit breaker,” on April 7 after case numbers surged in the dormitories.
With total global cases of Covid-19 nearing 3 million, Singapore’s caseload has jumped to the second-biggest in East and South-East Asia after China, slightly above Japan’s total of 13,585. Singapore’s death toll stands at 12, one of the world’s lowest.
Around 200,000 foreign workers – mostly young males from countries across South and South-East Asia who work in sectors such as construction – live in 43 large government-sanctioned dormitories, with another 120,000 housed in a variety of smaller facilities, such as repurposed factories.
Of Singapore’s 5.8 million population, almost 1.4 million are listed as foreign workers.
The Ministry of Health stated on Monday that most of those who tested positive in the dormitories did not show any symptoms. The ministry stated that “in most countries, people who are asymptomatic are not tested.”
Health Minister Gan said during a Monday press conference that with 1 in 15 of the workers tested, Singapore had exceeded rates achieved by other developed economies among their wider populations.
“This is far higher than the testing rates seen in other countries like Korea, which is one in 90, as well as other countries like the United States, United Kingdom, or even Hong Kong,” he said.
Ten thousand workers who have tested negative and who work in “essential” services have been moved to other accommodation, but the majority of the workers have been confined to their residences since last week.
Singapore’s government has pledged not to differentiate between foreign workers and Singaporeans, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong promising last week to make sure that they get paid and remit money to their home countries during the pandemic.Show