Singapore reported 632 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, mostly foreign workers living in packed dormitories, taking the total number of infections in the country to 19,410.
The Health Ministry said of the new cases nine were Singapore citizens or permanent residents (foreigners).
“We are still working through the details of the cases and further updates will be shared,” the ministry said. The novel coronavirus has so far claimed 18 lives in the country.
The Singapore government is ramping up testing capacity with a view to starting nationwide COVID-19 testing, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament.
Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran on Tuesday addressed the concerns of the migrant workers living in dormitories, who have been subject to stringent restrictions and active testing.
Speaking in Tamil for workers from India, Iswaran explained the need to test them and their co-workers.
The Indian-origin Singapore minister said the government has “undertaken numerous efforts to enhance the quality of food and facilities” within the dormitories.
The video was dubbed in Bengali and forwarded to Bangladeshi workers via WhatsApp.
“If tested positive, we will provide (your friends) with the necessary medical care fully paid by the government. We will provide you with the necessary quality of medical care as we do for Singaporeans. This is our promise,” said Iswaran.
As of Monday, more than 5 per cent, or 16,383, of the 323,000 migrant workers living in dormitories have tested positive for the virus, including a large number of Indians.
Many workers remain quarantined in their rooms, while the stay-home notice period for work permit and S Pass holders in the construction sector has been extended by another two weeks to May 18.
Iswaran said he had approached four Indian stars to have them send their wishes and encouragement to the workers.
The celebrities include actor Rajinikanth and former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. Composer A R Rahman and actor Kamal Haasan have already conveyed their good wishes.
Haasan said: “When we look after ourselves, don’t forget that it is also like we are looking after the government. The government is not a separate entity from us, we are all part of the same ecosystem.”
Rahman urged the workers, like their countrymen in India, to follow the government’s announcements and practise safe distancing.
“It is in your hands for you all to be careful and stay safe,” said the Oscar winning musician.
Minister Iswaran said the workers should visit official sources such as gov.sg for correct information and not worry themselves with fake news.
He said services in the dorms have been enhanced to make sure workers can communicate with their families, get necessary information from the Internet, and watch their favourite films, reported The Straits Times on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the government announced that some of the tough restrictions put in place during Singapore’s circuit breaker period will continue till June 1. They were to be eased on Monday.
For the lifting of COVID-19 “circuit breaker” measures to reopen businesses locally, the daily number of local community cases should fall to zero or single digits over a sustained period of time as well as lower the infection levels in foreign worker dormitories, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had told the Parliament earlier.
Globally, over 250,000 people have died and over 3.5 million infected by the novel coronavirus that first originated in December last year in Wuhan, China.