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Migrant workers fear massive Singapore dormitory lockdown is coronavirus time bomb

SINGAPORE/DHAKA Migrant workers residing in vast Singapore dormitories shut down from the outside world due to the coronavirus outbreak fear their cramped and squalid quarters usually are fast becoming a hotbed with regard to infection.

Singapore on Sunday said it had become quarantined virtually 20, thousand workers around two dormitories, made up of typically Bangladeshi as well as other South Asian manual employees, after they have been linked to at least 90 microbe infections.

The government mentioned the actions was required to prevent bigger transmission from the city-state – which is shutting schools and even offices this week due to a raise in cases – and mentioned it had taken measures to minimize worker interaction in the dormitories and ensure many people received pay, meals plus medical help support.

But the transfer has been rebuked by privileges groups and others who claim it may be discriminatory and challenges exposing balanced individuals to an increased chance of disease.

“If anyone is infected with the virus in our room or in our block, it is just a matter of time to catch the virus, ” said Majidul Haq, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi, who continues at the S11 Dormitory @Punggol with some thirteen, 000 various other workers.

Haq and three other employees told Reuters they sleep in cramped 12-bed hokum rooms, discuss toilets plus basins usually blocked through overuse, which cockroaches and overflowing decline bins are a common view.

The supervisor of the dormitory and the govt manpower ministry did not instantly comment whenever contacted by Reuters.

When Reuters visited the Punggol site on Monday, six police cars lined the road outside of the purpose-built, low-rise complex and also a police tent had been built at the entrance. The only activity came from the arriving and going of a number of ambulances and masked workers ferrying junk into big plastic bins.

Amnesty International said the quarantine was “a recipe for disaster”.

“As this stands, the quarantine at these dormitories may be discriminatory and add up to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty, ” said the charity’s Singapore researcher, Rachel Chhoa-Howard.

Amnesty has raised similar concerns about lockdowns of migrant worker accommodation in Qatar, while mass transmission of the disease among people living in close quarters such as on cruise ships and in prisons has been a feature of the pandemic which has infected over a million people globally.


“This is the tip of the iceberg, ” said Alex Au, vice president of rights group, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

“When you package people in such density… all of this mantra regarding isolation and social removing is worthless. ”

To combat rising virus cases, Singapore has advised its residents to stay home, not socialise and maintain a metre distance between each other if they have to go out for essential activities like shopping.

Authorities have said they are also stepping up precautions in other dormitories as well, including trying to reduce the density of residents.

The quarantining of the dormitories has also highlighted the broader issue of the treatment of foreign blue-collar workers critical to the development of gleaming, modern Singapore, said the city-state’s former ambassador to the United Nations.

“The dormitories were like a time bomb waiting to explode, ” Tommy Koh said in a widely shared Facebook post on Monday.

“Singapore need to treat this particular as a get up call to treat our essential foreign employees like a First World nation should and never in the atrocious way in which these are treated at this point. ”

Bangladeshi construction worker Shahadat Hossain, 30, said he and his colleagues were “so afraid” at the potential customer of fourteen days of confinement at the Punggol complex.

“It would be a total disaster if someone is infected in my room, ” said Hossain. “How can we control the infection as we live in such a crowded place? ”