Is the Singapore Government really “heartless” towards foreign workers as some human rights activists claimed?

TL;DR – An ex-nurse allegedly claimed that “We are too kind already”.

You may have seen a footage of a “chaotic scene” at Changi Exhibition Centre isolation facility making the rounds on social media, accompanied by the following message:

In the message, an ex-nurse allegedly claimed that:

  • The migrant workers are “disgustingly unhygienic” and are not practicing social distancing.
  • The migrant workers want to “continue to be sick” so that they do not get sent home by employers, who would not be able to keep up with paying them salaries when they are not working.
  • Food provided for the migrant workers are specially designed by dieticians to help with the underlying illnesses, which these migrant workers are suffering from.
  • The migrant workers don’t want to listen to the doctors, nurses, and the SAF medical personnel deployed at the isolation facility.

She ended the message questioning: with “comfortable stay, free food, free WIFI and medical care” – who wants to get well?

Situation has improved significantly

In response to the video which has gone viral, the facility’s managing agent Mandarin Oriental Singapore said it is aware that the video has been circulating online.

Mandarin Oriental Singapore also clarified that the incident depicted in the video was taken more than a week ago on May 10, during the distribution of an afternoon snack.

The managing agent also noted that queues for food at the community care facility have improved, with more staff members and volunteers deployed to assist with meal distribution and crowd management.

Mdm Ho Ching, the wife of our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, wrote in a Facebook post that she too had received the message and the video as well.

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In her post, she cautioned people against believing its contents, as it is a fake story made up to stir people’s emotions negatively.


Nonetheless, the above video and message remind me of an article published on The Sunday Times which I read a few days back.

In the article titled, “Coronavirus: Two migrant workers taught me human values”, which is hidden behind a paywall, the author wrote:

“This pandemic has shone a harsh spotlight on the living conditions of migrant workers here.

We need to face reality, do an honest review and commit ourselves to doing better by these workers.

Singapore’s leaders need to show the way, not hide behind the worst instincts of those who prefer to keep things as they are for their own benefit.”

It made me ponder.

If providing accommodation, free food, free WIFI, and top-notch medical care to the migrant workers aren’t solid evidence to show that the Singapore Government is taking good care of the migrant workers, then how much more is enough?

We could have chosen to deport these migrant workers back you know, but we did not.

Instead, the Singapore Government “stubbornly” wants to test and treat, swab and sort, detect and decant the migrant workers, just like what they are doing for our fellow Singaporeans.

In my opinion, that is showing the best of humanity – and that is our Singapore Government for you.

And you know what? It takes two hands to clap.

There is only so much the Government can provide for these migrant workers. So, perhaps it is also high time that the migrant workers start playing their part in observing good personal hygiene, minimising physical contact with one another, and maintaining a safe distance from one another.

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Lawrence says:

    To allege that the migrant workers do not keep their personal hygiene in check is unabashedly racist at best. Shame on you as a person in repeating such unfounded and bigoted accounts when they have already been proven to be malicious and debunked accordingly by HOME, TWC2 and others. You should stop writing your comfortable and lop-sided opinions from your desk and start reporting actual situation as they happen on the ground.

  • Eugene says:

    Dear Ms. Teo,
    the workers are acutely aware of the situation and it does not help that this article unfortunately depicts them in a negative light. They are also acutely aware of how people here perceive them. Remember the ‘not in my backyard mentality’ of some Singaporeans when it was suggested that worker dorms be built near residential areas? Or how they were being squeezed into dormitary rooms like sardines?
    Be advised please that we do not deport them because we need them to build our infrastructure and buildings. Furthermore, while they may be quarratined at facilities and being offered free wifi, activities and meals, they are not being paid at all during their time in quarrantine, and most would rather work than to get quarrantined. Yes, the government is being very nice to them, and we should as they are the ones under the hot sun building, toiling and beautifying Singapore. Unless we would want to undertake these jobs and replace them. Would you want to do their jobs? Would we as Singaporeans want to do their jobs? It is easy to write such reports in the comfort of one’s home, it is another issue when you are on the ground.
    As for your suggestion that the workers keep good personal hygiene, i assure you that they do it everyday without fail. God bless you and keep you safe.

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