TWC2 volunteers monitor the media and government statements to stay abreast of developments regarding Covid-19 in SIngapore, particularly the situation among migrant workers residing in dormitories. Starting this month, and (hopefully) for the next few months, we will share here a summary of the information we have gleaned.

If readers spot any errors or can help fill any gaps in the picture, please drop a note to <info@twc2.org.sg> with the header “Covid-19 summary, attention Kellock”.

Quick summary

  • There appear to have been some setbacks on the plan to clear dorms of COVID-19 by early August, with an average of about 50 new cases still popping up in “cleared” dorms each day.
  • Nevertheless, there has been much progress, with the daily rate of new cases dropping about 88% since the start of August.
  • A total of about 17% of all dorm residents have been infected with COVID from the start of the pandemic to 31 August.
  • There have been no new deaths in August, and – with the exception of one case for three days in early August – no patients in ICU.

Key numbers

Cumulative cases (since start of pandemic)

  • As of 31 August, a total of 53,669 dorm residents have been declared infected, a 9% monthly increase on the 49,327 dorm cases at the end of July.
  • The 53,669 cases represent about 17% of the total dorm population of 323,000.

New cases

  • In the week to 31 August, 344 new dorm cases were declared, an 88% drop compared to the 2,771 dorm cases in the week to 31 July.
  • The numbers fell sharply in the first two weeks of August, from an average of about 400 cases per day to about 80, and since then have continued to fall slowly. In the week to 31 August, the average rate was about 50 new cases per day.

Deaths and critical illness

  • The last COVID death in Singapore was announced on 13 July (Singaporean, not a migrant worker). Since then there have been no additional COVID deaths.
  • Since 6 August there have been no COVID cases in ICU.

Hospitalised and in Care Facilities

The following are total numbers in Hospitals plus Community Care Facilities (CCFs) and across the total population. So far we have been unable to find out what fraction of these are migrant workers.

  • As of 31 August, there were 1,127 people in hospitals and CCFs, about 80% down compared to the figure of 5,687 on 31 July.

Quarantine

  • As of 22 August, the Straits Times reported 14,000 migrant workers in quarantine (see footnote 1).

Dorm clearance

In late July, the government announced a plan to clear dorms of COVID-19 by 7 August 2020 (see footnote 2), with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in Purpose-Built Dorms (PBDs) serving as quarantine facilities. On 11 August, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that this had been achieved (see footnote 3).

On 19 August, MOM further announced that all dormitories had been cleared, including the standalone blocks serving as isolation or quarantine facilities (see footnote 4). The press release states that “All residents in the standalone blocks have either completed their isolation/quarantine, or been moved to other government facilities depending on their health status.“

However in the course of testing, new cases have popped up throughout August and continue to pop up; these are in dorms that were declared clear, making the meaning of “cleared” rather unclear. Many of us at TWC2 probably interpreted “cleared” to mean that daily-new cases in dorms would drop to zero – or at least to just occasional isolated cases. But after 11 August there continued to be about 80 new cases per day, and at the end of August we’re still seeing 50 per day. It’s not yet clear, at least not to us, to what extent these are cases of reinfection and to what extent they result from discovery of cases that were previously undetected, for example perhaps due to false negatives in testing.

Most of the dorms with new cases are PBDs. Among the ones reporting significant numbers of new cases since the stated clearance date of 11 August 2020 are

  • Sungei Tengah Lodge (193 new cases declared from 12 Aug to 31 Aug),
  • ASPRI-Westlite Papan Dorm (168),
  • Kian Teck Dorm (40),
  • The Leo (8),
  • Homestay Lodge (7),
  • Kian Teck Hostel (7) and
  • Tuas View Dorm (7).

In the same period there have also been new cases reported in some Factory-Converted Dorms (FCDs) including those at 35 Kian Teck Way (62) and 66 Tech Park Crescent (23).

Testing

Interpreting data which is released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) approximately weekly (see footnote 5), it seems that the rate of swab testing has dropped somewhat since a peak in mid July. From 14 – 20 July 2020, the data suggests that nearly 23k swab tests across about 7.4k unique individuals were carried out daily. In the week to 24 August (latest at the time of writing), that had dropped by about one third to about 14.5k tests per day across 4.5k individuals. Throughout this time, from mid-July to 24 August, the number of tests per person tested has averaged around 3 to 4.

Note: These figures are based on some assumptions about the meaning of the MOH figures and are across the total population, not just migrant workers or dorm residents. So far we’ve been unable to find out what fraction of these are migrant workers.

Around 1 August the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)  and the Health Promotion Board launched Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) for most workers (including all workers in the construction, marine and process sectors plus dorm residents in other sectors) (see footnote 6) , and by 18 August MOM said that 78% of employers had logged into the RRT registration system (see footnote 7). As we currently understand it, RRT is an initiative which aims to test all workers in these categories every 14 days. There are at least 387k workers in the above categories(see footnote 8), so this would seem to imply testing of the order of 28k individuals each day which is a long way from the ~4.5k individuals per day figure derived above.

Imported cases

The Ministry of Health provides some demographic data on imported cases in daily press releases under the following webpage (see links to the “Annex C” documents): https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights

Eyeballing this information for August shows that a significant percentage (perhaps one in three) of the imported cases are Work Pass and Work Permit holders, especially from India. There are also a large number of Dependant’s Pass holders from India and a significant number of female Work Permit/Pass holders from the Philippines — the latter may include domestic helpers. However in the latter half of August, imported cases seem to be increasingly dominated by Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

Additional information

See also:

Ministry of Health’s Daily Reports at https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/situation-report and a timeline of the COVID pandemic in Singapore, with many dorm-specific details at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_in_Singapore

1. Recent cases among foreign workers involved those who were in quarantine facilities https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/recent-cases-among-foreign-workers-involved-those-who-were-in-quarantine-facilities

2. “All migrant worker dormitories to be cleared of coronavirus by Aug 7, says Lawrence Wong” https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/all-migrant-worker-dormitories-to-be-cleared-of-coronavirus-by-aug-7-says-lawrence

3. “All dormitories cleared of COVID-19: MOM” https://www.gov.sg/article/all-dormitories-cleared-of-covid-19-mom

4. “All Remaining Standalone Quarantine Facilities in Dormitories Cleared Of COVID-19” https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2020/0819-all-remaining-standalone-quarantine-facilities-in-dormitories-cleared-of-covid-19

5. See section titled Number of Swabs Tested at https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19

6. FAQs on rostered routine testing https://www.mom.gov.sg/covid-19/frequently-asked-questions/rostered-routine-testing

7. Employers To Ensure Workers Go Through Rostered Routine Testing https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2020/0818-employers-to-ensure-workers-go-through-rostered-routine-testing

8. 280 workers’ approval rescinded for failing to go for routine Covid-19 testing https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/280-workers-approval-rescinded-for-failing-to-go-for-routine-testing