Migrants live crammed into 43 dormitories. Some 500 dorm residents have been infected, a quarter of all cases in the country. Some 24,000 people are under observation. The pandemic hit two dormitories. What is happening in the city-state could happen in other countries in Asia and Africa.
Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The dormitories housing thousands of foreign workers have become clusters for the spread of the coronavirus in Singapore, which now fears a second wave of contagions.
Local authorities had succeeded in curbing the spread of COVID-19, mainly thanks to the partial closure of borders, stringent airports controls, and an effective disease identification system.
Until a few days ago, Singapore’s approach was touted one of the most effective, together with that of South Korea, Taiwan and China. Now the number of cases is rising fast and causing concern.
Yesterday, 287 new cases were reported, the worst since the outbreak began, up from 142 the day before. Overall, about 2,000 people have been infected in the country with six deaths.
The negative trend has prompted the government to impose a partial lockdown with schools and non-essential businesses closed.
People have been urged to stay home, except for basic necessities. Penalties for violators range from a S$ 10,000 fine (US$ 7,000) to six months in prison.
Initially, the authorities were concerned primarily about infected people coming back, and so neglected migrant workers.
About 200,000 people from poor countries are employed mostly in construction, shipping and maintenance, sectors where it is difficult to respect social distancing to prevent infections.
Foreign workers, who make up almost 40 per cent of Singapore’s workforce, usually live in precarious conditions, crammed into 43 dormitories, often 12 in a single room, sharing bathroom and kitchen, a situation that facilitates the transmission of the virus.
Close to 500 cases have now been confirmed in several dormitory clusters, about a quarter of all cases. More than 24,000 workers are now confined to two dorms - on full pay and with meals provided.
Some virus-free residents have been moved to empty properties or army camps to try to reduce the density.
Experts warn that everyone must take notice of what is happening in Singapore, especially in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa, which have large communities stuck in poor sanitary conditions in places similar to Singapore’s dormitories.