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Singapore readies 'floating hotels' for workers as coronavirus spreads



SINGAPORE (Reuters) - 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 centre, 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 organised 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 minimise 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.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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