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Singapore quarantines migrant workers after virus cases

Migrant workers wearing face masks as prevention for the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus are pictured at a quarantined dormitory building in Singapore on May 20, 2020. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP

Singapore has quarantined about 1,200 migrant workers from a dormitory after coronavirus cases were discovered among men thought to have already recovered from infections, officials said.

Vast dormitories housing mostly South Asian workers were at the centre of Singapore’s initial outbreak last year, with the majority of the city-state’s cases in the self-contained complexes. 

The country’s outbreak has largely been brought under control with just a handful of infections detected daily, but the discovery of new cases among foreign workers has prompted fears the dorms could be hit again.

Earlier this week, a virus case was discovered in the Westlite Woodlands Dormitory in a worker who had already received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Authorities conducted further tests at the site and another 17 workers, thought to have already recovered from earlier infections, have tested positive for Covid-19, health officials said.

“To prevent and contain the possible spread of infection in the dormitory, we imposed quarantine orders on workers at the affected block,” Tan See Leng, minister in the prime minister’s office, said late Thursday.

Officials are investigating whether the workers were re-infected, or if they are still shedding the virus from earlier infections. 

Singapore last month started vaccinating foreign workers, who do low-paying jobs in industries ranging from construction to maintenance.

Tens of thousands of the migrants were placed in quarantine in their dorms last year during the initial outbreak. While the curbs have been eased, they are mostly only allowed out of their accommodation for work.

Singapore authorities were caught off guard when the virus hit the crowded dormitories, raising uncomfortable questions about how the prosperous city-state treats its migrant workforce.

The country of 5.7 million has escaped relatively lightly from the pandemic, reporting more than 60,000 cases and 30 deaths. 

© Agence France-Presse

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