Singapore readies ‘floating hotels’ for workers as coronavirus spreads

A tugboat pulls the Bibby Renaissance floating hotel meant to house healthy migrant worker in Singapore, April 11, 2020. (Courtesy of Sea Farmers at Ubin via Reuters)
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Updated 13 April 2020

Singapore readies ‘floating hotels’ for workers as coronavirus spreads

  • Meals will be prepared off-site and delivered to the cabins to minimize intermingling
  • Singapore reported 233 new coronavirus cases on Sunday taking its total to 2,532

SINGAPORE: Singapore is preparing to house hundreds of foreign workers in accommodation vessels typically used for offshore and marine industry staff as it races to find alternatives to dormitories where the novel coronavirus has been spreading rapidly.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers, many from South Asia, live in cramped dormitories across Singapore, which have become the biggest source of coronavirus infections in recent days.
Authorities are moving some of the healthy residents of those facilities to other sites including military camps, an exhibition center, vacant public housing blocks and the accommodation vessels, which they have called “floating hotels.”
“Each facility can hold a few hundred occupants and can be suitably organized to achieve safe distancing,” Minister of Transport Khaw Boon Wan said in a Facebook post on Sunday after he visited one of the vessels.
They are docked in a restricted area in a port terminal, Khaw said.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said it was working with terminal operator PSA Singapore, Keppel Corp’s rig-building unit, floating accommodation barge provider Bibby Maritime Ltd. and serviced apartment operator The Ascott Ltd. to bring in and manage two floating accommodations.
Khaw released photographs of a basic, clean cabin with three beds covered in blue linen, and said the residents would be able to use a deck for an hour of exercise every day.
Meals will be prepared off-site and delivered to the cabins to minimize intermingling. A medical facility is also being set up nearby on land.
Singapore reported 233 new coronavirus cases on Sunday taking its total to 2,532, eight of whom have died.


UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2020

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”