Singapore reports new COVID-19 cluster at Sembawang Shipyard

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Singapore reports new COVID-19 cluster at Sembawang Shipyard

A new cluster of COVID-19 infection has been identified at Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore, the second such cluster in the ship repair sector.

Reporting 596 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that five new clusters of infection had been uncovered including one at Sembawang Shipyard. Seven earlier confirmed coronavirus cases have now been linked to the shipyard.

It is the sector cluster of COVID-19 infections to be uncovered in the shipyard sector with a cluster of five infections identified in early April at Keppel Shipyard.

Singapore’s shipyards rely heavily on foreign labour and the last two weeks have seen a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections linked to foreign worker dormitories in the city state. Of 6,588 COVID-19 cases to-date on 19 April in Singapore some 4,706 are linked to foreign worker dormitories. 

The city-state is currently under what the government characterises as a “circuit breaker”, with all non-essential workplaces closed and most people working from home. Ship repair yards remain operational as an essential service, as do many other parts of the maritime sector.

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in foreign worker dormitories has raised concerns from shipyard executives in other parts of the world where foreign yard workers live in similar types of accomodation.

One shipyard executive voiced his fears. For as long as the accommodation blocks remain virus-free, the workforce presents a significantly lower threat than other staff who live outside the yard and come into daily contact with potential virus carriers on their way to and from work. The internal workforce live together, are transported by bus to and from work, and have no outside contact. However, the virus need only be introduced by one or two individuals in an accommodation block before spreading rapidly and developing into a cluster.