A pilot program allowing migrant workers in dormitories to travel back to the community is about to start next week – nine months after the scheme was announced in December last year and quite 16 months after movement curbs were first imposed.
For a start, up to 500 fully vaccinated migrant workers living in dorms that have had no Covid-19 cases within the previous fortnight are going to be allowed to go to pre-identified locations within the community for up to 6 hours weekly.
These dorms also will be got to have good safe living measures in situ and a 90 percent vaccination rate, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday. More than nine in 10 migrant workers living in dorms are fully vaccinated but understand some dorms haven’t met the specified rate.
The first identified location for the pilot scheme is small India. Workers will get to take an antigen rapid test (ART) before the visit and three days after the visit. MOM will evaluate the scheme after a month.
Those workers must apply to be a part of the scheme. it’ll be hospitable to all dorms that meet MOM’s criteria, but it’s not clear how workers are going to be selected or split into cohorts.
Bus transport to and from Little India is going to be provided. Workers also will be restricted to a neighborhood within Little India, but the ministry didn’t specify where and the way big this area is going to be. More details are expected to be announced next week.
MOM also will ease other restrictions from next Monday, an equivalent day a compulsory self-testing regimen for workers living in dorms is about to start.
As a part of this new regimen, workers must regularly test themselves using ARTs – additionally to the rostered routine testing they’re subjected to.
MOM also will work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to introduce activities like movie screenings, sports events, and non secular services at the centers.
Excursions to attractions organized by NGOs are going to be allowed to resume, with pre-event tests.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a visit to Westlife Mandai dormitory, where a cluster of 14 cases was recently closed, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health Koh Poh Koon said the initial plan for the community visit pilot scheme is for workers to go to Little India on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays over two-time slots within the morning and afternoon. About 80 workers are going to be allocated to every slot.
There will not be fixed itineraries for the community visits but workers may attend religious sites first before visiting shops and eateries.
Dr. Koh said MOM will work with mosque and temple management to segregate the workers from other devotees.
“They have a touch little bit of flexibility there to also meet with people they need … I feel that degree of freedom is vital for them to truly de-stress,” he added.
Dr. Koh said the easing of restrictions on workers comes because the number of individuals within the larger community susceptible to Covid-19 is falling as vaccination rates rise.
Barring a “black swan event” like a replacement, more virulent strain of the virus, the community visits for workers will likely continue albeit they end in a couple of infections.
The high vaccination rate has provided a degree of baseline protection, which can be enhanced by third booster shots for the community and possibly for migrant workers also, Dr. Koh said.