On 7 May 2020, Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin spoke from the sidelines of an event for migrant worker dorms with regards to the spread of COVID-19 amongst the dormitory community.
He explained that the massive outbreak of COVID-19 amongst migrant workers in dormitories were not a result of the poor living conditions alone—even if these conditions are abysmal. He mentions that the highly contagious nature of the virus accompanied by large groups of people living in close quarters is what was most likely the cause for the spread.
Mr Tan also emphasised that he was not “white-washing” the situation and that people should not generalise all living conditions in dormitories as horrible. This is especially due to the revelation of the cramped and unhygienic living quarters the migrant workers in Singapore reside in and the low-quality meals that they’re provided with.
He does, however, acknowledge that this does not excuse for the poor living conditions that do exist and assures that stringent action will be taken against those who violate the law. He also agrees that dorm standards can be improved and assures that the government will make the necessary adjustments.
But at the heart of it all, the main point he brought across is that the poor living conditions observed do not represent the lives of every migrant worker. He says that “we should not conflate the causes with these less-than-accurate generalisations”.
He also compares the situation in our university hostels and parallels it to the migrant worker dorms by saying, “if the hostels remained open and the students were there, you would expect a massive outbreak to occur as well. If people are living in close quarters, given the contagious nature of this virus, outbreaks will occur.”
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