Singapore seeks to contain virus disruption in worker dorms

The Marina Bay area of Singapore, Sept 25, 2021. (ORE HUIYING / BLOOMBERG)

BANGKOK / HANOI / YANGON / MELBOURNE / KUALA LUMPUR / DUBAI – Singapore fine-tuned virus measures at foreign workers dormitories as it juggled outbreaks in several facilities while trying to minimize economic disruption.

There were 412 new infections reported in foreign-worker dormitories on Saturday, bringing the total to over 5,600 since early September. Authorities said they plan to increase testing and will revise quarantine orders to “reduce the extent and duration of work disruptions while protecting public health.”

Contact tracing will be tightened to those most at risk of virus exposure, reducing the need to isolate entire blocks or sections within a dormitory, the manpower ministry said Saturday. Quarantine measures will apply to just roommates of confirmed cases and shortened from 14 days to 10.

Singapore last year quelled dormitory outbreaks involving tens of thousands among its 320,000 migrant worker population, but they remained largely confined to their facilities even as the wider society saw some return to normalcy. For over a year, they were contained, raising unfairness over the treatment and concerns of their mental health. It was only last month that authorities eased their movement restrictions under a pilot scheme that allowed batches of them to visit pre-identified locations. 

The city-state reported 2,356 new infections on Saturday, bringing the tally to 101,786 and with 107 deaths.

Meanwhile, arriving travelers from certain regions will need to spend 10 days in isolation starting Oct 7, instead of 14 days currently, officials told reporters in a briefing on Saturday.

Those quarantine rules apply to so-called category III countries, which among others, currently include Japan and France, as well as higher-risk category IV countries like the US and the UK.


Australia reported more than 1,900 new infections of the Delta coronavirus on Sunday, health data showed, with authorities struggling to quell the outbreak in the two most populous states and cases spreading to new states.

Victoria and New South Wales, which have been under lockdown for weeks, reported 1,887 cases and 13 deaths.

The island state of Tasmania, which has not had a case for 58 days, reported a new local infection late on Saturday, and there were new cases in South Australia state over the weekend.

Queensland state has been largely COVID-19-free and reported no new infections, allowing the National Rugby League grand final to kick off in Brisbane on Sunday night, albeit with crowd numbers cut to 75 percent of capacity to 39,000 people.

Victoria and New South Wales are expected to open up once 80 percent vaccination is reached, but authorities have warned case numbers are expected to soar and hospitals will come under strain as Australia learns to live with COVID-19.

READ MORE: Australia to ease international border curbs from November

New South Wales expects to reach that target by the end of October or early November, with Victoria a few weeks later.

Australia is also set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel from next month for some states when 80 percent of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Saturday, 56 percent of Australians nationally were fully inoculated and 80 percent have received at least one shot.

Australia closed its international borders in March 2020, allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return nations. All arriving passengers have been subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their expense.

Australian Open

The Australian Open is likely to require players taking part in the tournament in January to be vaccinated, The Age reported on Sunday, citing unidentified people in sports and government. 

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley is resigned to a requirement for players to be inoculated and is cooperating with the state government, the newspaper said, citing the people. 

Tiley had initially resisted the requirement on concern it would deter vaccine-hesitant champion Novak Djokovic and other top players, according to the newspaper.Neither the ATP men’s tour nor women’s WTA have expressed support for mandatory vaccines, but both strongly encourage players to be inoculated, the paper said.

Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai, a major world fair that opened last week, on Sunday said three workers on the project had died after contracting COVID-19, revising up the number of fatalities since 2015 to six workers.

The organizer had for the first time on Saturday disclosed three work-related deaths and 72 serious injuries among 200,000 workers during construction of the site, defending the accident rate as less than half of that of building work in Britain. 

"Unfortunately we had three worker-related deaths due to COVID. That was during the course of the pandemic," Expo representative Sconaid McGeachin told a daily briefing.

McGeachin said the three deaths disclosed earlier were construction-related. She referred reporters to local authorities for comment on how many Expo workers had so far caught COVID-19.

Restaurants are open for takeaway in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug 11, 2021. (SAMSUL SAID/BLOOMBERG)


Malaysia is looking to reopen its borders to foreign travel in December once 90 percent of its adult population is fully vaccinated.

“Yes, December is possible” though “it’s still too early at the moment,” Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in an interview with local media in Kuala Lumpur.  We will open the state borders first before allowing international travel.”

As of Saturday, 87.2 percent of the adult population had been fully vaccinated, the nation’s Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply said on Twitter on Sunday. Meanwhile, 94.3 percent of the adult population had received the first dose.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is in talks to procure an experimental antiviral pill developed by Merck & Co for COVID-19 treatment, the health minister said on Saturday.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet that he has started negotiations to procure the new drugs, referring to a Reuters story on Friday that the pill developed by Merck could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19.

"As we transition to living with COVID, we will be adding new, innovative treatment options to our arsenal in addition to vaccines," he said.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are planning to seek US emergency use authorization for the pill as soon as possible and to make regulatory applications globally.

The pill molnupiravir, designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19.


A new batch of 4 million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines from China arrived in Myanmar's Yangon on Saturday, according to a release by the Chinese Embassy to Myanmar.

As of Saturday, China has supplied 20.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar, of which 3.9 million doses were donated by China.

According to the figures released by the Ministry of Health, over 3.86 million people have been fully vaccinated nationwide, while over 4.4 million people had received their first jabs as of Friday.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Myanmar has risen to 467,269 after 1,347 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, the ministry's release said.

People visit a COVID-19 testing station during a nationwide lockdown in Wellington on Au 18, 2021.

New Zealand

New Zealand will require all non-citizens aged 17 and over arriving in the country to be fully vaccinated from Nov 1, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“It will work well alongside the announcement today that everyone on board an Air New Zealand aircraft traveling internationally will need to be fully vaccinated from February 2022,” Hipkins said.

All arrivals will still be required to complete 14 days in quarantine.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand, the flag carrier airline of New Zealand, said on Sunday it will require passengers on its international flights to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in what is one of the world's strictest policies for travelers.

"Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is the new reality of international travel – many of the destinations Kiwis want to visit are already closed to unvaccinated visitors," Air New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran said in a statement.

New Zealand plans to reopen its international borders, which have been closed since March 2020 to anyone who is not a New Zealand citizen, early next year. Air New Zealand will implement the vaccination policy from Feb. 1, the airline said.

New Zealand placed its fourth-largest city into a snap lockdown after two cases of COVID-19 were reported outside Auckland, where an outbreak of the infectious Delta variant continues to fester.

The city of Hamilton and the small beachside town of Raglan, both in the Waikato district south of Auckland, will join the nation’s biggest city on Alert Level 3 restrictions at midnight Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The areas will remain locked down for an initial period of five days as health officials assess whether the virus has spread widely.


The number of daily COVID-19 deaths in Thailand fell below 100 for the first time since July 26, the country's health authorities reported on Saturday.

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Thailand recorded 87 COVID-19 related deaths over the last 24 hours, raising the tally to 16,937, while the total number of infections rose by 11,375 to more than 1.62 million.

From Friday, the quarantine period for fully vaccinated foreign visitors was reduced from 14 days to seven days.

The Southeast Asian country has also eased some social distancing rules in Bangkok and other 28 provinces, including shortened curfew hours and reopening of more businesses.


Vietnam reported 5,490 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, including 5,477 locally transmitted and 13 imported cases, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The new infections brought the country's infection tally to 803,202, with 19,601 related deaths, the ministry said.

Most of the community cases were detected in southern localities, including 2,723 in Ho Chi Minh City, 1,517 in Binh Duong province, and 509 in Dong Nai province.