New daily record sees number of coronavirus cases near 6,000 in Singapore – dpa international


Building site in Singapore, a city-state which has added more than a fifth to its land area using sand imports, with migrant labour from around Asia doing much of the building work (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health on Saturday announced a daily high of 942 cases of Covid-19, the sometimes-fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, pushing the city-state’s total to 5,992.

In a brief statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that the “vast majority” of the new cases announced on Saturday are foreign workers living in state-approved dormitories.

“We must expect to see more dorm cases for a while longer,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned on Saturday.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild, because the workers are young,” Lee said

Though it had banned most incoming travel and later forced bars and restaurants to close, Singapore resisted imposing the strict lockdowns seen in neighbouring Malaysia and the Philippines until case numbers in the dormitories started to climb, prompting the government to impose a “circuit breaker” on April 7.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the dormitories – which house around 200,000 migrant workers from across Asia, men who sleep sometimes 10-20 to a room – has rocketed since the start of the month. Singapore had recorded just 1,000 cases by April 1.

Thirteen dormitories have been declared “isolation areas” by authorities, who last week started “aggressively testing” in the crowded residences in an attempt to separate healthy workers from those infected.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who is in charge of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, said on Friday that a mix of soldiers, medics and officials “are going into the dorms to actively test the workers and isolate the infected ones from the healthy, and to ensure their overall well-being.”

Some of the workers have been moved to vacant public housing and to army barracks, with a further 1,300 beds lined up on “floating hotels” – ships usually berthed to house maritime workers – for those who test Covid-19 negative.

Others are to be moved to gymnasiums and sports halls that are not being used due to the circuit breaker, an effective lockdown.

The surge in cases among Singapore’s migrant workers means that the tiny city-state, which has a population of 5.8 million, has almost as high a reported caseload as much bigger neighbours such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

On Saturday, the Philippines announced 207 new cases, taking the national total to a 6,087, while Indonesia’s additional 631 cases means that a reported 6,248 people have been infected with Covid-19.

In Singapore, where testing rates are relatively-high, 11 deaths have been reported among people infected with Covid-19, far fewer than Indonesia’s 535 or the Philippines’ 397.

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