Recovered foreign workers to be housed on cruise ships

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Some foreign workers who have recovered from COVID-19 in Singapore have started living aboard a cruise ship docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said yesterday.

The first workers boarded the SuperStar Gemini – one of two cruise ships cleared to house these workers temporarily – on Wednesday.

The second ship, the SuperStar Aquarius, has also passed checks by the authorities and is ready to receive the workers.

These are part of Singapore’s efforts to transfer workers to alternative living areas to reduce the spread of the virus within their dormitories.

STB said that fresh air is piped into the ship, and no air will be re-circulated between cabins and common areas. The ships also have en-suite toilets and in-cabin dining, as well as Wi-Fi and entertainment in the cabins.

Men stand with their belongings as they talk to a security guard before getting entry into a foreign workers’ dormitory, currently under isolation as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

There are strict infection control measures and safe distancing measures will be observed at all times, it added.

The Marina Bay Cruise Centre has also been equipped with sick bays and an isolation station, according to the board.

Singapore reported 932 new COVID-19 cases as of noon yesterday, bringing the national tally to 17,101.

The vast majority of the new cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, the Singaporean Ministry of Health said in its daily update of preliminary figures.

Many workers who are well have been moved out of the tightly packed dormitories to other living quarters, such as military camps and vacant HDB flats.

On April 27, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that authorities have an “extensive” plan to house recovered foreign migrant workers, involving new sites.

SuperStar Gemini and SuperStar Aquarius have “completed strin-gent evaluation checks” by the Government, Genting Cruise Lines said in a press release. The two ships together can accommodate up to 2,000 foreign workers.

“Every effort will be made to uphold the health and welfare of Singapore’s foreign workers while on board the ship, which include observing the highest standards of safe distancing and preventive measures at all times,” said Genting Cruise Lines.

“We are pleased that our onboard facilities, as well as preventive and safety standards meet Singapore’s strict requirements for this initiative,” said Dream Cruises President Michael Goh, adding that there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 among its guests or crew to date.

Similarly, Singapore’s Inter-agency Task Force will set up on-site community care facilities (CCFs) within the most affected dormitories for COVID-19 positive migrant workers who are clinically well or display mild symptoms, the authorities said yesterday.

These patients will be moved to the CCFs almost immediately after diagnosis instead of waiting to be transferred to an off-site medical facility, they said. Off-site CCFs are set up in locations such as D’Resort, Singapore Expo and Changi Exhibition Centre.

On-site CRFs will similarly be set up to look after patients who are no longer infectious and are transferred out of the CCFs.

“After the workers recover, our aim is to help them stay healthy and enable them to work when their employers resume business,” said the task force, which is in charge of handling the COVID-19 outbreak in dormitories.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s eco-nomy will open up “step by step” when the number of COVID-19 cases in the community falls, its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday in his May Day message to the public.

Singapore is into its fourth week of a “circuit breaker” period to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Safe distancing measures have been tightened and the circuit breaker extended by another four weeks to June 1.

Most work places and schools have closed and people have shifted to working and learning from home during this time. They are not to leave their homes except for essential activities such as buying food and groceries.