Reports of chaos and unrest have emerged at a newly built foreign worker dormitory in Jurong, with residents alleging poor living conditions and a lack of prompt access to medical help for Covid-19.
Photos and videos of workers at the Westlite Jalan Tukang Dormitory expressing their frustrations with the way they are being treated have been uploaded to several online platforms since Tuesday.
Workers there said they did not have proper access to medical support and were not properly isolated.
About a quarter of the 2,000 workers staying in the dormitory have reportedly tested positive for Covid-19, workers told a WeChat-based information portal.
But Sembcorp Marine, which employs a large number of workers, and the operator of the Westlite Accommodation dormitory said yesterday the dormitory followed Covid-19 protocols.
The situation reached a tipping point on Wednesday, when residents gathered in droves to confront the management of the dormitory.
Riot police were called in the afternoon.
A resident who wanted to be known only as Mr. Ren, 41, told the Straits Times that residents were frustrated with the lack of medical assistance.
“(The dormitory management) doesn’t care about those who are sick – these men had been sick for about seven or eight days,” he said.
“Their fever had gotten really high and we had to make a noise about it before anything was done. “
He added that the situation worsened when residents confronted management. Although voices were raised, the workers did not resort to violence, he said.
Police were called around 1 p.m. and deployed at least four Special Operations Command vehicles.
Video showed workers screaming as riot police formed just outside the dormitory entrance.
ST understands that the dormitory residents are of different nationalities, but had banded together to express their frustrations.
Apart from the lack of timely medical support, they also claimed that their living conditions were poor and that they had been given food that contained worms or had gone bad.
Some workers had threatened to quit because of the way they were being treated. Mr. Ren said he has since quit and just wanted to go home.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Wednesday it was aware of allegations of breaches of health care protocols, lack of access to medical support and poor quality food in the dormitory.
Its preliminary investigations revealed delays in transferring workers who had contracted Covid-19 to the appropriate facilities.
“We are working to transfer those who need additional medical care to the appropriate health facilities for treatment,” said a spokesperson for MOM.
However, a spokesperson for Sembcorp Marine said its employees may not be fully aware of current protocols.
About 1,400 of the dormitory’s 3,420 beds are occupied by Sembcorp Marine workers, according to Westlite Accommodation.
“The company understands that Westlite is following Covid-19 mandatory health tests and movement protocols,” said the Sembcorp Marine spokesperson.
“The company is aware that current protocols in Singapore may not be apparent to residents of the Tukang dormitory and may differ from the Covid-19 management measures in their home country.”
Sembcorp Marine also reminded the caterer of strict compliance with hygiene standards, he added.
The company did not address issues raised by workers, such as why they were not isolated and taken to affected facilities immediately after testing positive, as is the protocol stated.
Westlite Accommodation said it had adhered to the Covid-19 protocols in effect at its dormitory in Jalan Tukang, but acknowledged delays in transferring affected workers to the appropriate facilities due to a recent spike in cases.
Westlite added that she was working closely with MOM to address the issue.