Singapore builders seeking legal advice as outbreak hits operations
SINGAPORE construction firms are asking for advice about whether they have the option of invoking force majeure clauses in building contracts as the government turns away or quarantines Chinese labour to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, lawyers told Reuters.
Singapore has an estimated US$20 billion to US$24 billion of public and private sector building projects in the works this year – and any large impact on the sector, which is highly dependent on foreign labour, could help push the economy into recession.
The Building and Construction Authority has urged private sector developers to give extensions to contractors that work for them. Some Chinese companies have already invoked force majeure on contracts due to the virus, including China’s top LNG buyer China National Offshore Oil Corp and Jiangsu New Times Shipbuilding.
Singapore, which has one of the highest numbers of Covid-19 infections outside China at 77 (as of Feb 17), has halted the issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals since Jan 31. Workers from China with existing work visas must seek approval before re-entry, and if approved, must spend 14 days in quarantine. The Ministry of Manpower said last week it was rejecting 400 applications daily from returning workers with recent travel history to China and had also cancelled some work passes. It has also prevented employers from hiring foreign staff if rules are breached. Construction labourers without any travel history to China have also been infected, with five Bangladeshi workers among confirmed cases.
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