Fearing more Covid outbreaks in its foreign-worker dormitories, the government of Singapore has blocked workers entering the country from India as reported cases there continue spiralling out of control.
The announcement came on 22 April as daily cases in India reached a record-breaking 332,503. The total has risen on each subsequent day, hitting 354,531 yesterday.
Ministers acknowledged the move would have a “major impact” on construction projects, as the industry relies almost entirely on foreign workers, many of whom come from India.
In Singapore the pandemic spread largely among workers’ dormitories, prompting rolling lockdowns and drastic efforts to decant uninfected men from crowded facilities where social distancing has been described as “impossible”.
“We have to do this for public health reasons. But we also recognise that this will have a major impact on our construction, marine and process sectors,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said.
“Many building and housing projects will be further delayed. Our companies, especially the SMEs, will be affected. We are reviewing additional support measures to help them.
“The situation is very fluid, and even one case may potentially lead to a cluster of infections. I urge everyone to stay vigilant – follow all the safe distancing rules, and see a doctor if you are sick.”
The move by Singapore’s Multi-Ministry Taskforce bars entry to all long term pass holders and short term visitors who have been in India within the last 14 days.
National Development Minister Desmond Lee acknowledged the decision would hit construction projects, but said it was necessary “to minimise the risk of another wave of infection in our dormitories, and protect our guest workers and the wider community”.
“With the inflow of workers affected, the progress of construction projects may slow down and firms may face challenges meeting deadlines,” he added.
“We know this will impact the sector, and will announce support measures soon. We will work closely with the trade associations in the Built Environment sector to support firms through this period, and help them with transformation.
“For property buyers, they too will be concerned about the possibility of further delays in the completion of their new homes, offices and commercial spaces. We will work with Housing & Development Board, private developers and construction companies to see how their projects can be safely brought back on track.”
Image: Construction in Singapore relies almost entirely on foreign workers (sol/unsplash)