Singapore quarantines 20,000 migrant workers to contain coronavirus

Singapore has quarantines 20,000 foreign workers in their dormitories for 14 days as coronavirus cases increase in the city state.

Two dormitories have been isolated: one with 13,000 workers and 63 cases, and one with 6,800 workers and 28 cases.

They are typically home to men from South Asia who work in construction.

Although Singapore was praised for its proactive response to the virus, the number of locally-transmitted cases is increasing – and a “lockdown” begins on Tuesday.

The government said cases in the dormitories were rising, and that isolation would “keep the workers safe [and] protect the wider community from widespread transmission”.

Workers are banned from leaving their blocks, and have been told not to mix with people who don’t live in their room or floor.

The number of people in a room varies between dormitories, but in 2015 during a visit to a new complex it was revealed that 12 people stay per room.

The workers will be paid $67 a day and given three meals, plus masks, hand sanitisers, and thermometers. Temperatures must be recorded twice a day and there will be “on site medical support”.

But six workers in the Punggol dormitory told the Straits Times their centre already had cockroaches, overflowing toilets, and queues for food.

Foreign worker dormitories are privately-run but must be licensed if they have more than 1,000 occupants. There are around 40 such places in Singapore.

Singapore has recorded more than 1,300 cases and six deaths.

Although most cases were initially imported, local transmission is rising and on Sunday, 120 new cases were confirmed – the highest daily rise so far.

Schools and non-essential businesses are set to close this week, and people have been encouraged to stay at home.

Some 5.7m people live in the tiny city-nation, including 1.4m foreign workers.