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Coronavirus

Singapore to test all 300,000-plus migrant workers for coronavirus

Authorities tackle spike in infections as city-state looks to reopen next month

A volunteer outreach program distributes free meals to migrants who are unable to work in Singapore's Little India district in April   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Singaporean authorities announced Tuesday an "aggressive testing regime" targeting the country's more than 300,000 migrant workers living in dormitories as the government prepares to restart the coronavirus-hit economy.

The crowded dorms have become virus hot spots. All but a few were quarantined after Singapore experienced a sharp jump in cases.

Antibody tests will be employed at sites with "higher levels of infection," the Ministry of Health said. Residents found to have developed antibodies to the virus will be allowed to go back to work.

Residents without the antibodies, and those in other dorms, will undergo polymerase chain reaction testing to detect the coronavirus itself. Those testing negative in the PCR tests will be allowed to return to their jobs.

Workers thought to have been infected will be isolated and treated in hospitals or in special facilities, such as those set up at piers or convention venues.

Migrant workers from such places as Bangladesh and India are chiefly employed on construction sites and in shipyards. They account for 90% or so of Singapore's total COVID-19 infections, which had climbed to more than 23,000 as of Monday.

The Health Ministry said the rate of infections at the dorms has stabilized. But new cases have averaged 700 per day in the past week because of the "extensive testing regime, covering the workers who are well and asymptomatic," it said.

In contrast, daily new cases among the broader community have fallen to the single digits. Tough restrictions on businesses and people's movements will start to be eased June 1.

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