Singapore’s Sembcorp Marine has been hit with another coronavirus outbreak among its workers, with a recent spike in cases at a dormitory in Jurong that houses some of its migrant staff and tempers have frayed among those in residence.

The Ministry of Manpower on Wednesday confirmed it sent officers from its Forward Assurance and Support Teams to investigate allegations regarding breaches of Covid-19 health protocols, a lack of access to medical support and the poor quality of catered food at the Westlite Jalan Tukang dormitory, reported Channel News Asia.

The 3400-bed dormitory, which houses about 1400 Sembmarine workers, saw a heavy security presence on Wednesday afternoon, with armoured riot police and Special Operations Command vehicles deployed as tempers ran high among workers.

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"Over the past week, there has been a spike in cases detected among SembCorp Marine workers. Due to the large numbers, there have been delays in conveyance to recovery facilities and healthcare facilities," dormitory operator Centurion was quoted by CNA.

Centurion said it has been working closely with the ministry’s Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) group to "overcome the logistical challenges posed by this recent increase" in Covid infections.

Sembmarine in a statement said it has been monitoring the increase in the number of Covid-positive cases at the Tukang Dorm for the past one week and has been engaging with the dormitory operator to address our workers’ concerns including the measures to isolate Covid-positive cases within the dormitory and the medical care rendered.

“We understand that Westlite is following the mandatory Covid-19 health testing and movement protocols and they have been working closely with the relevant authorities.”

The offshore and marine contractor added that, according to the current protocols, workers who test positive from the antigen rapid test are isolated from other residents in the dormitory recovery facility or moved out by the authorities to external centralised recovery facilities.

Covid-19 management measures "may differ"

“We are mindful that the current protocols in Singapore may not be apparent to the residents in the Tukang Dorm and may differ from Covid-19 management measures from their home country,” acknowledged Sembmarine.

“In our interactions with our migrant workers, the company have received their concerns and continue to provide feedback to the operator of the dormitory and ACE to address these concerns.

“At the same time, we have taken note of the feedback on the hygiene and quality of food served and has issued reminders to the caterer on strict adherence to hygiene standards. We are cognisant of the diverse food preferences of migrant workers from different cultures and has been working closely with the caterer to continuously cater to the differing needs of the individuals.”

The new cluster at Sembmarine’s Admiralty Yard was first identified in mid-September. The ministry said that transmission took place in the workplace with further spread to household contacts of the infected persons.

Of the 26 initially identified infections, 23 were staff members and three were household contacts.

Sembmarine stressed that the safety and wellbeing of its workers are its foremost concern.

Many of the projects under construction at the contractor’s Singapore facilities have been delayed — directly and indirectly — by the coronavirus pandemic as workers tested positive for the potentially fatal infectious disease amid increasing logistical challenges.