In light of the burgeoning situation regarding the spread of coronavirus in Singapore, with two new confirmed cases as of February 10, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Centre for Domestic Employees, and Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) have released a joint advisory regarding the situation.
The advisory noted that foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and their employers should work out arrangements for rest days to minimize time spent outside the home in the light of the coronavirus outbreak.
Government Issues Advisory on Maids’ Rest Days
The said advisory followed the Health Ministry’s confirmation of a total of 40 local cases of the virus on Saturday (February 9), as shared in a report by the Straits Times.
According to the update from the Ministry of Health, the two new cases included a Certis Cisco employee who served quarantine orders on two people from Wuhan, and the other is a two-year-old Singapore citizen who was one of the Singaporeans evacuated from Wuhan on Jan 30.
As per the advisory, employers and FDWs were advised to maintain open communication and discuss alternatives for rest days due to the virus outbreak.
Furthermore, it noted that households that have young children, the elderly or those with illnesses or special needs at home, may be concerned with the risk of transmission should their FDWs become infected while out on their rest day.
The advisory even urged employers and FDW to come to a mutual agreement for rest day arrangements during this period. While helpers rest at home to minimize time spent outside, they should not be assigned work, the advisory explained.
It also shared that employers must provide compensation to those who agree to forgo rest days during this time.
The advisory also highlighted personal hygiene and care precautions to protect households during this time.
Additionally, employers were advised to initiate temperature screening for members in the household and to look out for respiratory symptoms.
In the instance that a helper falls sick, employers were advised to give her adequate time to rest and recover before resuming her work.
FDWs who continue to go out on their rest days were advised to avoid crowded places, large gatherings and to avoid close contact with people with flu-like symptoms.
Commenting on this update, Ms. Jaya Anil Kumar, a case manager at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, shared that they have come across a few cases where employers have barred their maids from taking their rest days.
For his part, Mr. Ethan Guo, general manager of Transient Workers Count Too, explained that there were employers who trusted their maids to take precautionary measures when outside, while those caring for young children were asked to stay home.
Ms. Jaya also shared: “Many domestic workers use their days off to send money home or to tend to other errands which they are unable to do during their workdays.”
These are just some of the precautionary measures emphasized by the government to prevent the community spread of the deadly virus in the financial hub, with some staff at major companies being told to work from home for at least the next few days and temperature screening checkpoints set up at the front doors of several towers.
Last February 7, Singapore has raised its alert level to “orange” — the same as during the deadly 2003 SARS outbreak, indicating the virus is severe and passes easily between people.
Here is an infographic regarding alert levels for a pandemic as shared by the Ministry of Health: