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Transfer of COVID-19 cases from Jurong dormitory delayed due to ‘spike’ among Sembcorp Marine workers, says operator

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SINGAPORE: The transfer of COVID-19 cases from a migrant workers’ dormitory in Jurong to recovery and healthcare facilities was delayed due to a “spike” in infections among Sembcorp Marine workers, the dormitory operator said on Thursday (Oct 13).

Centurion Corporation, which operates Westlite Jalan Tukang dormitory, said in a statement that it wanted to provide “context and clarity” to claimsmade in relation to Sembcorp Marine workers living at the dormitory.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday said it sent officers from its Forward Assurance and Support Teams (FAST) to investigate allegations aboutbreaches of COVID-19 health protocols, a lack of access to medical support and the poor quality of catered food at thedormitory.

The claims were published in an online article on Weixin, the domestic version of WeChat used in China.

Westlite Jalan Tukang dormitory saw heavy security presence on Wednesday afternoon, with armoured riot police and Special Operations Command vehicles deployed.

MOM investigates claims about COVID-19 health breaches at a Jurong dormitory; riot police deployed

The dormitory has a capacity of 3,400 beds, of which 40 per cent – about 1,400 beds – are occupied by Sembcorp Marine workers, said Centurion on Thursday.

“Over the past week,there has been a spike in cases detected among Sembcorp Marine workers. Due to the large numbers, there have been delays in conveyance to recovery facilities and healthcare facilities,” said the operator.

Centurion said it has been working closely with MOM’s Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) Group to “overcome the logistical challenges posed by this recent increase” in COVID-19 infections.

It said all the cases have been taken to the appropriate care or recovery facilities, and added that ACE Group has deployed a mobile medical team at the dormitory.

“ACE, Sembcorp Marine and Westlite together are also adding efforts to educate the migrant worker residents on testing and health management policies and protocols, as defined by the Singapore authorities, which differ from perspectives from their home countries and cultures,” said Centurion.

The operator said COVID-19 testing and movement protocols “have been followed at Westlite Jalan Tukang and are being followed”.

“Westlite Accommodation enforces safe living measures at the dormitory, and works closely with the authorities who are maintaining a tight surveillance on migrant workers who test positive for COVID-19,” it said.

CATERED FOOD

Centurion also responded to claims about the poor quality of food catered for workers at the dormitory.

“Catered meals for Sembcorp Marine workers staying in Westlite Jalan Tukang are provided and managed by Sembcorp Marine,” said the operator.

“We understand the company has listened to feedback from their workers, has made adjustments and will continuously improve their catering provider’s service and food quality.”

Delineating its responsibilities as an accommodation provider, Centurion said its role was to “provide good quality living environments to all our residents” and”assist in the distribution or collection of meals catered by employers for their workers residing with us”.

It said its role was also to “help coordinate between the authorities, health providers and employers around measures to contain and manage COVID-19”.

CNA has reached out to Sembcorp Marine for comment.

DORMITORY HEALTHPROTOCOLS

According to MOM’s website, migrant workers are subject to the Ministry of Health’s latest simplifiedhealth protocols.

Close contacts of COVID-19 cases are issued ahealth risk warning and required to take an antigen rapid test every day for seven days.

If they test negative, they are allowed to leave the dormitory and go to work.

If theytest positive but are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, they recover ina dormitory recovery facility or a centralised recovery facility.

Workers who test positiveare isolated from other residents in the dormitory recovery facilities, said Centurion. Centralised recovery facilitiesare externally located and cases are transferred there by the authorities, it added.

According to MOM, if workers test positive and are unvaccinated or symptomatic, they must isolate in a dormitory isolation facility or swab isolation facility while waiting for the results of a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

If the PCR test result is negative, they can return to work. If it is positive, the workers will be brought to a community care facility or hospital depending on their condition.

Thistransfer to external facilities is carried out by medical authorities, said Centurion.

Roommates of workers who test positive using ARTs should test themselves using ART if necessary and monitor their health, according to the MOM website.