Migrants get a taste of freedom as Singapore eases labor restrictions

Migrant workers revisit the community after more than a year of movement curbs due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Singapore
Migrant workers revisit the community after movement was curtailed for more than a year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore
Migrant workers pray at a temple, before enjoying time in Little India, as part of a pilot program, over a year to allow fully vaccinated migrant workers to return to the community Time after time due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Singapore on September 15, 2021. Reuters/Edgar Su

September 15, 2021

by Edgar Sue

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A group of migrant workers marched in Singapore’s Little India area on Wednesday for their first taste of freedom in more than a year, as part of a pilot program in dormitories imposed to stem a spike in coronavirus infections To ease the measures.

While the rest of Singaporeans have returned to some semblance of normal life, low-wage foreign workers are mostly confined to work, nearby recreation or living quarters apart from essential errands.

Wednesday’s visit is part of a program allowing 500 fully vaccinated migrant workers to visit certain public places for six hours each week. The project will be evaluated after a month.

In April last year, the Southeast Asian financial center imposed controls on thousands of mainly South Asian workers after their often cramped dormitories became the epicenter of last year’s outbreak.

The pilot covers only a fraction of the large migrant worker population, who must undergo rapid COVID-19 antigen tests before and after the tour.

For the lucky few, it was a chance to visit their old hamlets.

After offering prayers at one of Little India’s temples, Ayyavu Ponnaiah said he planned to do some shopping in the next few hours.

He said, ‘I am very happy.

Vairavana Karuppaiah, an Indian construction worker, is planning to go to a shopping center to buy new clothes.

The Ministry of Manpower launched the program after more than 90% of workers in dormitories were vaccinated, raising Singapore’s overall vaccination rate of about 81%, one of the highest in the world.

(Written by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Martin Petty and Gerry Doyle)

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