SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will contribute more to the country’s fight against COVID-19 “if there is a need to do more”, said Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen on Thursday (Apr 9).
He noted that 70 SAF medical personnel had been deployed to a few migrant worker dormitories, as part of the SAF’s “first tranche” of efforts.
Dr Ng said this was “quite a significant resource” that had been given to the nationwide efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, noting the SAF’s own medical needs.
“We are ensuring that we have enough medical resources for our own SAF troops, because we understand that our critical units are also still functioning. They also have medical needs,” he said.
“But if there is a need to do more, we will see what else we can contribute.”
Dr Ng was speaking to the media following a visit to the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, which is the largest COVID-19 cluster here with 118 confirmed cases.
On Sunday (Apr 5), the dormitory was designated an “isolation area”, with all 13,000 workers living there quarantined in their rooms for a two-week period.
Earlier this week, photos and videos on social media appeared to show crowded and unsanitary conditions at the S11 Dormitory.
The Manpower Ministry later said that the authorities were working hard to ensure the well-being of affected workers at the S11 Dormitory as well as Westlite Toh Guan dormitory, another isolation area.
The Migrant Workers’ Centre said on Tuesday that the situation at both dorms had “stabilised”.
READ: Singapore reports record spike of 142 new COVID-19 cases; 20 linked to largest cluster at S11 dormitory
READ: Inter-agency task force to help migrant workers living in dorms affected by COVID-19
Dr Ng noted that morale was high among the medical staff – made up of both full-time National Servicemen as well as SAF regulars – and that they understood what they were doing was a “crucial task”.
“I also reminded them to take care of themselves – make sure that they pay extra attention when they are wearing protective personal equipment, when they are taking it off and when they are conducting procedures to make sure that they themselves are protected from this viral disease,” he said.
Dr Ng said he also managed to speak to some foreign workers who were on their way to isolation facilities.
“They are very calm, and they understand what is going on so I think good systems are in place, and it gives me a lot of confidence,” he said.
COVID-19 infections have spiked in migrant worker dormitories recently, with cases linked to nine such dormitories across the island.
Four dormitories – together housing more than 20,000 workers – have been gazetted as isolation areas as of Thursday.
The Manpower Ministry announced on Tuesday said that an inter-agency task force had been formed to help migrant workers staying at these dormitories, who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.