Singapore marks milestone in virus fight with no new local cases

There are no cases in the community, as well as in the foreign worker dormitories since late March

SINGAPORE • Singapore recorded no new local cases of Covid-19 for the first time since February, as the city-state rebounded from an outbreak in migrant worker dormitories that at one stage contributed to more than a thousand infections a day.

There were no cases in the community, as well as in the foreign worker dormitories, according to a statement yesterday from the Ministry of Health. This was the first time that no new cases were reported in the workers’ dorms since late March. The country still saw four new imported cases.

The major milestone comes two months after Singapore declared dormitories where some 300,000 migrant workers live clear of the virus, though some infection clusters continued to persist after that.

Already, the outbreak among the more than 54,000 workers has forced a rethink of Singapore’s management and reliance on its low-wage labour force, having been one of the earliest examples of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups.

In the rest of the country, virus cases were kept at low levels through mandatory mask-wearing and other social-distancing measures as the economy largely reopened in June.

The country has ramped up containment strategies, including contact-tracing and targeted testing, and has also launched clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The benchmark Straits Times Index was up 0.3% as of 3:57pm in Singapore yesterday versus the broader Asian stock gauge’s gain of 0.1%.

At the dormitories, authorities have allowed the majority of labourers to return to work. To cut the risk of renewed infections, dormitories are putting in place measures, such as having staggered pick-up and drop-off timings, as well as minimising mixing between blocks. The workers are also required to go for regular testing.

Singapore is currently in the second of a three-phased economic reopening that has seen shops and restaurants resume operations in June after a partial lockdown was imposed in April.

Officials are expected in the coming weeks to give a road map to Phase 3, the so-called stage where limited-sized social, cultural, religious and business gatherings or events would resume until a vaccine is developed.

Since the June reopening, authorities have also eased restrictions on the number of people gathering for weddings and wakes, as well as allowed cinemas and hotels to reopen.

It is also exploring ways to safely open its borders after the virus outbreak led to record losses at the nation’s flag carrier and decimated traffic at Changi Airport. — Bloomberg