SINGAPORE – Another 11 workers staying at Westlite Woodlands dormitory have tested positive for Covid-19, including 10 who have recovered from the virus, said the Ministry of Manpower on Wednesday (April 21).
This comes after a 35-year-old Bangladeshi worker staying at the purpose-built dorm tested positive for the virus on Monday, despite receiving both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The Straits Times understands that plans are now being made to move hundreds of workers to a quarantine facility.
MOM told ST in a statement that its Assurance, Care, and Engagement (ACE) Group, as well as the Ministry of Health (MOH), took swift public health actions after the case was detected as part of rostered routine testing for migrant workers.
The worker’s close contacts at the dorm and his workplace were isolated and placed under quarantine.
The worker’s roommate, who was among those taken to a dedicated quarantine facility, was later found to be infected with the coronavirus.
As a precaution, Covid-19 tests were conducted on all residents at Westlite Woodlands, MOM said.
To date, 10 recovered workers have tested positive.
These cases were immediately isolated and taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), and are being investigated for possible re-infection.
MOM said more information will be shared in due course.
According to a circular issued by Westlite Woodlands to its clients, the 11 additional cases were confirmed as at 9am on Wednesday.
The cases were detected after 568 pre-emptive swab and serology tests were conducted on Tuesday on residents staying on the second to seventh floors of Block A of the dorm.
The worker who tested positive on Monday stayed at the same block.
According to the circular, workers staying at the block will be moved to a government facility on Thursday and quarantined for 14 days as a precaution.
These dorm residents were recalled from work and are now required to stay in their units at all times until they are moved to the quarantine facility.
Said the circular: “We seek your understanding in the above measures, as we work with the authorities to manage the situation. These measures are beneficial to Singapore at large and… mitigate any spread to the community.”
ST visited the dorm on Wednesday night and spoke to a dozen workers.
All of them said they had to undergo swab tests either on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Most had heard about the additional Covid-19 cases and said their employers told them they will not be able to leave the dorm to go to work.
Some stocked up on groceries, such as rice and cooking oil, before returning to the dorm as they feared a lockdown.
Another group of workers said they heard about the Covid-19 cases in Block A, but were not worried as they were staying in Block B. At least two staff in full personal protective equipment (PPE) were seen near the entrances to a block in the dorm. Two men who said they were from MOM were seen entering the dorm, while two other men wearing the t-shirts with the ACE Group logo were at the dorm there as well.
An ambulance arrived at about 10.20pm and two paramedics were later seen putting on PPE.
They entered the dorm at about 10.50pm, and left after 10 minutes.
The worker who tested positive on Monday is a work permit holder who arrived in Singapore in July 2019. He is a construction supervisor employed by Prosper Environmental and Engineering, and worked at Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard.
He developed a runny nose on April 16 but did not report his symptom, MOH said on Tuesday. He received his first vaccine dose on March 12, and the second dose on April 13.
The case was picked up on April 18 as part of the rostered routine testing (RRT) regime that all construction, marine and process workers have to undergo.
His last swab test on April 9 and earlier tests under the RRT were all negative.
The man’s serology test came back positive, but MOH said this was likely because he had produced antibodies following vaccination. “As it typically takes a few weeks for an individual to build up immunity after completing vaccination, he was likely to have been infected before he was conferred protection after vaccination,” the ministry said.
He is the second dorm resident this month to be infected with Covid-19 despite getting both doses of the vaccine. A 23-year-old port worker from India tested positive on April 7, almost two months after he was fully vaccinated.
All 156 of the work permit holder’s close contacts were quarantined and subsequently tested negative. More than 1,500 workers staying in the infected worker’s dorm in Brani Terminal Avenue were also later cleared of the virus.
Giving an update last week, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the April 7 case was a reminder that it is possible for vaccinated individuals to be infected. However, Mr Ong emphasised that vaccines are still very effective in protecting people from the more severe forms of the disease and can significantly reduce the likelihood of the infected person passing on the virus to others – a view echoed by doctors who had spoken to The Straits Times.
Migrant worker dorms were declared cleared of the coronavirus on Aug 19 last year, but new dorm clusters and cases have continued to emerge. However, such cases have been more sporadic since the start of this year.
The last time a Covid-19 case was linked to Westlite Woodlands was in September last year, five months after an initial cluster of eight cases was linked to the dorm on April 11.
The cluster, which grew to 1,061 cases, was closed on Oct 11 after no new cases were linked to the dorm for 28 days.
That same month, 342 workers staying at Space @ Tuas dormitory were moved to a government quarantine facility as a precaution after a Covid-19 case was detected there.
This was because MOM had assessed that safe living measures were not strictly enforced in the dormitory block where the confirmed Covid-19 patient stayed.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.