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FOCUS: Virus outbreaks in Singapore migrant worker dorms threaten reopening

Kyodo News, Singapore, 9 September 2020 - With many businesses floundering due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore is trying to speed up the re-entry into the workforce of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have been under lockdown for months in their dormitories to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

However, recurring outbreaks in the migrant workers' living quarters could complicate and slow down the process for them to return to work with implications for the wealthy city-state's recovery from its worst-ever economic slump.

On April 21, after outbreaks erupted in the dormitories, the government imposed a total lockdown on all of them.

As a result, over 300,000 migrant workers who had been staying in some 1,200 dormitories were stranded inside buildings, causing construction and other major projects that rely heavily on them to grind to a halt.

The number of cases in the dormitories continued to fester after the lockdown, swelling from about 7,000 to over 27,000 cases on May 21 as photos circulating on social media revealed the dark side of life in the dormitories -- overcrowded and with less-than-sanitary living conditions -- which is believed to have made them extremely vulnerable to a large-scale outbreak.

Due to Singapore's heavy dependence on its 1.4 million foreign workers, who account for nearly 40 percent of its total workforce, the lockdown of the dormitories has been a big strain on the economy, which has suffered its worst recession.



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