Minister gives assurances to workers

Foreign workers who are confined to their dormitories for the next two weeks can rest assured that their salaries will be paid and their food and medical needs will be attended to, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters after a visit to the Westlite Papan dormitory in the Jurong area, Mr Shanmugam said the purpose of his visit was to hear from the workers, to understand their concerns and to give them assurance.

"It is tough to be cut off and be in a room most of the time, but they understand. Their main request is they hope after this is over, they will be allowed to work in Singapore," he said.

"Singapore is their destination of choice and I said, we hope so too - that they can work here."

Mr Shanmugam, who spoke in Tamil and English to more than 70 workers from India and Bangla-desh, told them that the Covid-19 outbreak is happening in other countries as well and sought their understanding for the current measures implemented. He also asked the workers to report to the authorities if their employers do not pay them.

Also at the dialogue were Nominated MP Arasu Duraisamy, who is also NTUC secretary for financial affairs and general-secretary of the Singapore Port Workers' Union, and Bangladesh-born businessman Muhammed Aziz Khan, founder and chairman of the Summit Group, who spoke to the workers in Bengali.

The Westlite Papan dormitory houses about 5,700 workers. It has no confirmed Covid-19 cases. As of Tuesday, 28 out of the 43 purpose-built dormitories have known clusters.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said workers in all dormitories will no longer be allowed daily movement in and out, including going to work, until May 4.

About 10,000 workers in essential services have already moved out of dormitories to alternative accommodation.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, said that other than their salaries, workers might be concerned about medical support and their living conditions.

"I said, 'Look, if you are not well, please report sick. We are aggressively testing even those who are asymptomatic. But please report and you will be taken care of,'" he said, giving the example of Singapore's 42nd Covid-19 patient, a 39-year-old Bangladeshi worker who was transferred out of the intensive care unit after being there for more than two months.

He noted that the workers said they had no issues with their food and that Wi-Fi connectivity has been boosted so they can contact their families regularly.

Asked about the case of a work pass holder who was stripped of his pass for breaching circuit-breaker measures earlier this month, Mr Shanmugam said: "I think the message has to go out very clearly, that if you breach the rules, very severe action will be taken. We want to stop the spread, and everyone has to observe the rules."

The Straits Times

"It is tough to be cut off and be in a room most of the time, but they understand. Their main request is they hope after this is over, they will be allowed to work in Singapore. Singapore is their destination of choice, and I said, we hope so too - that they can work here." - Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, who spoke to workers at the Westlite Papan Dormitory

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