‘Dire conditions’ in Covid isolation facility makes S’porean ashamed; discrimination questioned

‘Dire conditions’ in Covid isolation facility makes S’porean ashamed; discrimination questioned

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Singapore ― A member of the public took to social media to highlight the alarming condition of an isolation facility for Covid-19 positive patients, adding that the situation had made her feel ashamed.

“Today, I felt the gravity of my privilege, and deep shame for the blind eye I’ve turned to the discrimination so ingrained in my own country,” wrote one Min Chan on Facebook on Saturday (Oct 2).

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Although not usually a vocal person online, Ms Chan noted that she wished to “raise awareness to pave the way for accountability and change.”

She shared the situation of a friend who has lived in Singapore for over eight years with a work permit.

Her friend got infected with Covid-19 from his Singaporean landlord – allowed to undergo home recovery.

Ms Chan’s friend was fully vaccinated, showed mild symptoms and was told to quarantine at the Ang Mo Kio ITE facility.

“None of us were prepared for the dire conditions,” she wrote.

Ms Chan listed out the conditions such as no lighting provided during the day, rooms bare and filthy with no effort at sanitation between tenants, thin mattresses on the beds with no blankets, lack of room essentials like tables or chairs, toilet and shower amenities akin to wet market public toilets, and cold packaged food delivered during mealtimes.

She attached videos of the condition of the rooms and facilities.

Photo: FB screengrab/Min Chan
Photo: FB screengrab/Min Chan

Ms Chan added that her friend’s bed was covered in hair from its previous tenants while used earbuds, food wrappers and trash were strewn around the room.

The foul smell forced him to sweep and clean his area as best as he could, with the limited tools available in the room, she said.

“The charade of cleanliness and sanitisation that weighs so heavily on F&B, fitness and retail businesses in Singapore does not exist in this government facility,” said Ms Chan.

Tenants were also forced to breathe in chemical pesticides during the mosquito fogging being conducted on the premises.

There were only two washing machines to cater to “what seems like more than a hundred residents.”

Photo: FB screengrab/Min Chan

“In heavy thunderstorms such as the one we all endured yesterday, the lack of a door means rain falls halfway into the room, lightly spraying these men with rainwater for hours on end; with no blanket provisions, they shiver on their beds.”

Photo: FB screengrab/Min Chan

Ms Chan highlighted that the mood captured on the videos was “depressing.”

“Men of varying ages sit or lie in silence on their thin foam sheets, those lucky enough to have smartphones and headphones glued to the screen all day long, and those without, stare into space or try to sleep all day to pass time.”

When she told her friend to pass the time by watching shows on Netflix, he replied “feeling so privileged” he had a laptop while the rest didn’t, so he left it in the locker.

Meanwhile, staff dressed in full PPE (personal protective equipment) “herd large crowds” of residents, yelling, “line up, line up!” said Ms Chan.

Photo: FB screengrab/Min Chan

“I am told of a dorm mate who faints during a daily blood test. He hadn’t eaten all day, and does not speak any English.”

Worse, the healthcare workers suggest in English that the man eats one of the meals, without any concern for his comprehension, joking amongst themselves out loud that the food must not be good enough for him, shared Ms Chan.

When the concerned individual called the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to request her friend to be transferred to another facility, she was told it wasn’t possible.

“There’s no discrimination here. Singaporeans, EPs, it doesn’t matter what pass you are on, you will go to a CCF (community care facility) if you are not eligible for Home Recovery,” she was told.

Ms Chan then researched other CCFs and noted “hotel level accommodation with privacy and dignity.”

“Even Singapore Expo with its dorm-style layout is at least fully sheltered, with air conditioning and clean premises,” she added.

It was no surprise for Ms Chan that her friend hadn’t met a single Singaporean or Employment Pass holder in the ITE facility.

“They are all from India or China, holding work permits,” she said. “‘Where do Singaporeans and white-collar workers quarantine’, he wonders to me.”

When she informed her friend of her failed attempt for a transfer, his response saddened Ms Chan.

“I’m just a work permit holder; I am worried I will get in trouble if you raise the issue. Please don’t worry; I have everything I need here,” he said.

“In my fury, I search Google, Reddit, Facebook for commentary on the conditions of these facilities, wondering if anyone knows what they look like inside; the casual racism and discrimination their residents face,” said Ms Chan.

“This is Singapore. And I am ashamed of it.”

The Independent Singapore has reached out to MOM for a statement. /TISG

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