Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Singapore's Pandemic "Internment"

 It has been revealed almost half of Singapore's migrant workers have been infected with Covid-19 in the past nine months.

New data shows that 152,000 foreign workers - 47% - have been infected.

Without counting the migrant workers, fewer than 4,000 people have tested positive in Singapore.

The men, the majority of whom live in large dormitories where several men share a room amid cramped facilities, have essentially been quarantined from the rest of the population since April. The dorms - often holding thousands of workers - were essentially locking the workers inside.

"There is no justification for Singapore to treat migrant workers like prisoners," Alex Au of the charity Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) told the BBC. "Many have been locked in for eight months." He continued, "These new figures don't surprise us," Mr Au said. "During the middle of the year, workers who tested positive were telling us that they were told to stay in their rooms and not taken into isolation. They remained in contact with their room-mates."

 Singapore's foreign workers - typically low-wage migrant labourers from South Asia who largely work in the construction and manufacturing sectors - still face restrictions on their freedom of movement which will only be gradually lifted next year.

 Mr Au said. "We're more concerned that Singapore continues to treat the workers as prisoners even though the same statement by the ministry says that 'since October, no new cases were detected in the dormitories on many days'."

He argues that since the active infection rate is virtually zero and workers are tested regularly every two weeks, there is no reason to place such hard restrictions on them.

 Healthy workers are only allowed out to be taken to their work sites and occasionally to shop in designated shops near their dorms. Au said, "Workers are still interned and treated like prisoners, used for their labour with no freedom of movement."

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