Fears over packed housing

Fears over packed housing

Health Dept mulling solution for workers

The Department of Health wants to make sure the often-cramped housing occupied by daily-wage workers meets safety standards amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many daily-wage workers live in communal accommodation, which the department wants to ensure is safe and clean.

The department met with labour rights groups from across the kingdom yesterday to discuss the plan to ensure workers adhere to social distancing.

Department chief Panpimol Wipulakorn said health officials are focusing on workers at construction sites who live together in small spaces where social distancing is hardly a reality.

Dr Panpimol said the government will come up with a plan that can reduce infections.

"Rental rooms and crowded communities are prime targets to introduce measures for safety," she said. "The challenge is how to make it practical."

"We understand safety measures will be difficult to implement in those areas," Dr Panpimol added. "But at least we can carry out some steps to prevent infections."

Many daily-wage workers are employed on construction sites without personal protective equipment to prevent infection. Due to their small income, the workers have no choice but to live in crowded conditions

According to the Ministry of Public Health, 42 daily workers have been infected by the novel coronavirus. All were returnees from Malaysia. The disease was only detected while they were under quarantine in Songkhla province.

The meeting between the Department of Health and labour rights groups failed to come up with solutions to address the accommodation issue of daily-wage workers.

Dr Panpimol said those living in worker camps are advised to wash their hands and wear masks to protect others from Covid-19.

Wasana Lamdee, a coordinator of Laboring Communication Network, said daily-wage workers have difficulties in obtaining protective gear.

Ms Wasana said the government should lend a hand to support them, adding the possibility of coronavirus transmission is low because many of the workers were told to stay at home.

She said the government must provide the workers affected by the lockdown with jobs so they can make a living. According to LCN, 38 million daily-wage workers live in the country, 2.6 million of whom are migrant workers.

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