SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has sought to clarify an account by a social media influencer claiming that her migrant domestic worker had been discharged from her stay-home notice after just three days, only to later be found to be COVID-19 positive.
The account of the events shared by Jade Rasif – a former DJ and model who became a full-time healthcare worker after the COVID-19 pandemic struck – is “inaccurate”, MOM said in a Facebook post on Monday evening (May 17).
In a series of Instagram Stories – later also shared on her Facebook account – Ms Rasif, 27, said a maid her family had employed from Indonesia was discharged from her stay-home notice (SHN) after about three days.
This was despite having already paid around S$2,500 for her two-week notice, Ms Rasif said, adding the person who had called said the Indonesian national had “recovered from COVID”.
Two weeks after that, Ms Rasif said the maid then got called to go for a “sudden COVID test”, whose results turned out to be positive.
An ambulance then comes to pick up the maid, with Ms Rasif noting on Facebook that the maid was being placed under quarantine once again.
READ: COVID-19: Singapore stops accepting new entry applications for work pass holders from higher-risk countries
“I was confused, if it’s not infectious why should she go back?” she wrote.
According to Ms Rasif, the family was not provided with any information regarding the maid’s status – including where she was brought to – and was not told if family members had to quarantine themselves.
Ms Rasif said she then sent a WhatsApp message to the ambulance service – which she said was the only contact number she was given – only to be replied with an expletive.
Ms Rasif said she was due to appear in court at the time and had contacted the courts to ask for a postponement given that her maid had tested positive for COVID-19 – only to later receive a call from the police informing her she was under investigation for breaching a quarantine order, despite never receiving one.
She stated that her family later paid S$200 for each member to undergo a COVID-19 test, all of which turned out to be negative.
In her social media posts, Ms Rasif said she later received a call informing her that her maid was now “non-infectious and asymptomatic”, though she would still have to spend three weeks in isolation.
READ: Maids aged below 45 can register interest from later half of May for COVID-19 vaccination: MOM
“We asked if she was infectious when she was staying with us. He was like… possibly,” she wrote.
“If you are hiring a helper or anyone from overseas, insist they get quarantined the whole period,” she warned, pointing to other clusters which had formed after people who were released early from stay-home notice were found to be COVID-19 positive later on.
Ms Rasif claimed that someone her family’s maid had met while in isolation had turned out to be positive and infectious, resulting in her employers and their extended family being placed under quarantine.
“Being recovered doesn’t mean you can’t get reinfected especially with new variants spreading around (Singapore),” she said.
“Blaming frontline workers, or blaming any race for this issue is so dumb. I’ve been on the frontlines for an entire year, and this was the closest to covid I’ve ever gotten,” she wrote.
“Not from a patient, but from trusting a system despite knowing all systems are fallible. Who can predict something like that? Please don’t blame victims, have empathy.”
She added that except for her young son, her entire family has been vaccinated.
CNA has contacted Ms Rasif for more information.
‘ASSESSED TO HAVE RECOVERED FROM OLD INFECTION’
In its Facebook post, MOM said the “precautionary testing” of the maid was for the safety of Ms Rasif’s family, adding she had been “assessed to be free from current COVID infection and had not posed a risk to the employer’s family”.
The Indonesian national had entered Singapore on Apr 11, and was tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, said MOM.
“She tested negative on Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and positive on serology tests, and was assessed to have recovered from an old infection and has antibodies against COVID-19,” the ministry said.
The ministry added she was “assessed to be safe” and thus allowed to be discharged from her stay-home notice on Apr 13.
The Health Ministry and MOM then decided to test the maid again on Apr 30, because of “the worsening COVID-19 situation and new understanding of the infectiousness of variants of concern in the region”.
The two ministries had “wanted to be sure” of her status despite knowing she had recovered from an old infection and was thus at “low risk of reinfection”, MOM stated.
READ: Myanmar maid who is Singapore’s new COVID-19 community infection was close contact of a previous case
Though the maid had tested positive using a PCR test, there were “indications” that this was from an old infection which the test was detecting dead viral fragements from.
“Further medical clinical assessment was needed to confirm that it was not a re-infection case,” the ministry said.
Responding to Ms Rasif’s concerns about why the maid had not been assigned a case number despite testing positive on the PCR test, MOM noted individuals are not classified as COVID-19 cases while clinical assessment is still ongoing.
“From our experience, most recovered individuals who test positive on PCR do so because they are shedding dead viral fragments from an old infection and are not active COVID-19 infections. Only the latter would require a case number,” the ministry said.
Members of Ms Rasif’s household were allowed to continue their daily activities as the risk that the maid had a current infection “remained low”, it noted.
“Ms Jade claimed to have been investigated for breach of quarantine. The family were not issued Quarantine Orders (QO), and there could not have been investigations made for breach of quarantine, when no QO was issued in the first place,” said the ministry.
READ: IN FOCUS: Will rising costs and reduced availability change Singapore’s relationship with maids?
Though Ms Rasif had said she was unable to contact anyone about the maid’s situation, MOM said the two ministries had contacted the Indonesian national’s employer – identified only as “a family member of Ms Jade” – on two occasions.
The ministry added that it had emailed the employer on May 5 to explain that the maid needed “further assessment to determine if she tested PCR positive because of an old infection or had a current infection”.
Contact numbers were provided in the email, MOM said, adding it had called the family member in question on May 6 to explain the need for further COVID-19 tests for the maid.
On May 9 – almost a month after entering Singapore on Apr 11 – the maid was assessed to be shedding dead viral fragments after having recovered from an old COVID-19 infection and was not currently infectious, MOM said.
“The MDW (migrant domestic worker) was medically fit for discharge and returned to her employer. This finding is consistent with the earlier determination of the MDW as recovered from an old infection when she first entered Singapore. The MDW had not posed a risk to the employer’s family,” it said.
MOM added that it had reached out to Ms Rasif’s family after receiving a complaint regarding the ambulance driver who had replied to them with an expletive.
“We hope to receive more details that will enable us to assist the family with the complaint,” it said.
Responding to the ministry’s post, Ms Rasif said she would “love to assist in (MOM’s) investigations”.
“There are other families whose helpers were not recovered who have been placed on SHN. They have reached out to me to seek clarification,” she said.
“I hope MOM will reach out and provide support for the affected parties.”