Letter to the Editor - Washington Post (4 May 2020)

04 May 2020

Regarding the April 22 news article “Migrant workers bear the brunt of Singapore’s outbreak”:

There was an outbreak of novel coronavirus infections in the dormitories for migrant workers despite the steps we asked dormitory operators to take since January: ensure safe distancing, step up cleaning, suspend nonessential communal activities, require temperature checks, distribute hand sanitizer and segregate residents from different dormitory blocks. Unfortunately, the measures proved insufficient.

Now we must deal with the ongoing outbreak. We must provide workers assurance and health care. This includes testing them extensively, which is reflected in the high number of cases reported.

We have set up medical posts in all the dormitories with clusters of infections. All migrant workers with fevers or respiratory symptoms receive timely treatment, including intensive care should they need it, at no charge.

Beyond medical care, we cater three meals a day for migrant workers. Government financial support to their employers helps fund their upkeep and ensure that they can continue to be paid. We have arranged remittance services and ensured free Internet access so they can stay in touch with friends and family. Community partners counsel workers who need social and emotional support. We are enabling Muslim workers to observe Ramadan and celebrate Eid al-Fitr, just as we celebrated the new year with Indian workers.

We feel a deep responsibility to take care of these workers. When the dust has settled, there will be time for a thorough review of what must change and how we could have done better. For now, our focus must be to win the fight against the coronavirus.

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Washington
The writer is Singapore’s ambassador to the United States.

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