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S’pore’s poorest in lockdown as others move freely

The Malaysian Reserve, Singapore, 10 September 2020 - With restaurants and malls bustling, pre-pandemic life is slowly returning for people in Singapore, except for the more than 300,000 migrant workers who make up much of the city’s low-wage workforce.

Since April, these workers have been confined to their residences with limited exceptions for work. After an extensive testing and quarantine campaign, the government cleared the dormitories where most of these workers live of Covid-19 in August, letting residents leave for several “essential errands”, like court appearances and doctor’s appointments.

The government said last month it was working toward relaxing more rules for workers. Those plans are now under threat, with new virus clusters emerging in the dorms, where workers from China, India, Indonesia and elsewhere share bunks and tight living spaces.

“Some days, I feel very upset and can’t take it,” said Mohd Al Imran, a Bangladeshi worker with a local engineering firm. After months of confinement at the dorms, he got Covid-19 anyway. He was sent to a coronavirus care facility and said it was “very free” by comparison. “At the dorm you can’t go out from your room,” he said in a text message. “They treat it like a prison.”

Singapore has been saying it’s taking appropriate measures, considering that migrant workers have accounted for nearly 95% of the city’s coronavirus cases. But the resurgence, so soon after the dorms were declared Covid-free, is raising questions about whether Singapore’s conditions for its low-wage workforce undermine the efforts to stamp it out.



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