06 Feb 2020  (1114 Views)
30,000 foreign workers returning from China

30,000 foreign workers, mostly on work permits, will be returning from China after the Chinese New Year. 

There is a high risk that some of them might be infected with the novel coronavirus. 

The govt is in a dilemma. What can they do?

Here are my views.

a) It is not possible to quarantine these workers. There are not enough quarantine facilities to handle 30,000 people.

b) The govt is also caught in a dilemma. They had decided earlier to provide $100 a day for each worker that is quarantined. The total cost for 14 days for 30,000 people is $52 million. That is a lot of money.

c) The govt has decided to place them on "leave of absence". They are required to stay at home for 14 days, and avoid contacts with workers at the workplaces.

d) There is a practical problem with this arrangement. Many of the workers shared a room. Their landlord would also be worried about taking them back. The govt had announced that they would not allow the landlords to rent the rooms if they evict the tenants due to this reason.

It is clearly very difficult to find a solution. 

Still, I think that the decision of the minister to allow these workers back on "leave of absence" is probably not the right move. They should be treated like any other visitors and denied entry into Singapore, unless there are sufficient quarantine facilities. This means that the return to Singapore will have to be phased out over a few months. This is harsh on the foreign workers, but there is no choice. 

As business is slow, the employers do not need the additional workers for the immediate future. 

I believe that most of these foreign holders will be able to cope with the loss of income for a few months. It will be hard on them financially, but there is probably no other choice. 

Tan Kin Lian

Vote - do you agree that the return of the foreign workers should be phased out over several months, subject to availability of quarantine facilities?

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