The news cycle having moved on to other things, Singapore seems to have forgotten that we still have hundreds of thousands of workers confined to dormitories without any leisure time outside.

Even in April 2020, in the most severe weeks of Singapore’s general lockdown (which the government calls ‘Circuit Breaker’) Singaporeans were not confined to their homes like migrant workers are. We were free to go out to buy take-away food, to jog or bicycle about, to shop at supermarkets. When rules were gradually relaxed starting 2 June 2020, we all welcomed the extra bit of freedom and relief.

Yet, all this while and till now, migrant workers have been locked away. Is it so hard to imagine what they feel?

Today we received a cry for help from a worker named Kazi in a Jurong-located dormitory through Facebook Messenger. He wrote to us:

It’s been 6 months since the dormitory people have been imprisoned, no one understands their state of mind, let them go out and go after mask, let it be compulsory […] living in captivity for 6 months.

Three hours earlier, he sent us a video in which we can see double decker beds barely 0.9m from each other. He described the still-unacceptable conditions in his room:

There are 16 people in a small room. There is no distance in the room […] Same situation, there is no bed 1 meter distance inside the room, and we who are special people please give them an exit pass so that we MOM can go to service center and hospital and TWC2, look at us thank you.

He also added:

Dormitory people are feeling annoyed, dormitory people are talking, everything has been opened outside, only dormitory people are not allowed to go out, what do you say the government allows dormitory people to move out, It has been going on for 6 months. The dormitory rooms have 16 people in a small room. It is not possible to sleep in the heat of the night. Itching, fever, cold, diarrhea are due to heat. There is no distance in the room.

Is there any reason to continue such cruel confinement measures?

Consider these facts:

6.7 – In the last seven days 15 to 21 September, there were 47 Covid-19 cases among dorm residents detected through surveillance, averaging 6.7 cases a day. While there were other cases detected, those were already under quarantine or isolation by the time they were detected, and thus posed no danger to anyone else.

What does 6.7 new cases a day resemble? It resembles the first and second weeks of May.

9.0 – In the first week of May (i.e. 4 – 10 May 2020), we found 63 Covid-19 cases in the community, averaging 9 new cases a day.

3.4 – In the second week of May (i.e. 11 – 17 May 2020), we found 24 cases, averaging 3.4 new cases a day.  These numbers were good enough for the government to announce a lifting of the lockdown two weeks later — but only for the general Singaporean community.

As the numbers in the dorms are in a similar range, it is time to do likewise. Open the dorms.