Covid-19 Singapore: A ‘pandemic of inequality’ exposed
By Yvette Tan
- 7 hours ago
Singapore is home to more than 300,000 low-wage foreign workers from countries like India and Bangladesh, who mainly work in industries like construction and manufacturing.
Their right to live in Singapore is tied to their job and their employer must provide accommodation, at a cost. They commute from their dorms in packed vans to building sites where they work and take breaks alongside men from other crowded dorms – perfect conditions for the virus to spread.
With no legal maximum occupancy rules, in pre-Covid times it was normal for up to 20 men to share a room in a dorm.
In late March, migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) warned that the “risk of a new cluster among this group remains undeniable”.
Weeks after a partial national lockdown largely brought the situation among the general public under control, the activists’ predictions came true. Hundreds of new migrant worker cases were being discovered each day.
Since mid-April, the government has released two distinct daily figures – the cases amongst the local community and the cases in the dormitories.
The statistics show the stark contrast between the high number of cases in the dorms and the number of cases in the community, which are so low they barely register in the graph below.
“Covid-19, much like any other pandemic, is a pandemic of inequality,” Mohan Dutta, professor of Communication at Massey University, told the BBC.
“How we communicate it – like the idea of reporting two different numbers in Singapore… [these] make the inequalities even more evident. One might even go so far as to say its [an example of] ‘othering’.”