SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has implemented new measures, including temperature-taking and staggering meal times in camps, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Cleaning and disinfection schedules for SAF-chartered buses and ferries have been stepped up. Non-essential social activities such as cohesion events have also been deferred.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, after a visit to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) on Tuesday (Feb 11), said that while the SAF's mission is to defend Singapore whether or not there is a virus, necessary steps must be taken to safeguard the health of its soldiers.
"And this is exactly what we are doing to make sure that both are top priorities as we continue with our training and as we look after the health of our soldiers," he said.
He was speaking with reporters when he observed some of the new measures which were put in place after Singapore moved its disease outbreak response up one level to "orange" last Friday (Feb 7).
Under the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition, "orange" means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact, though the situation is still under control. It is one step below "red", which signifies an out-of-control pandemic.
Asked about the plans in place if there should be a suspected or confirmed case of the coronavirus in an SAF camp, Mr Heng said that person would be sent to the medical centre for assessment, while contact tracing and isolation of close contacts would be done.
"The standards at our medical centres and their procedures are exactly the same as those that are adopted by the MOH. If the doctor here feels that the patient fits the criteria and needs to be referred to the NCID (National Centre for Infectious Diseases), then that would be done," he said.
He added that there was currently no plans to cancel in-camp training for operationally-ready national servicemen (NSmen).
Since last Friday, the temperature of visitors to SAF camps have been taken. All are also required to fill in an online form, which included questions on visits to China in the last 14 days.
At the cookhouse in BMTC on Tuesday (Feb 11), reporterssaw how hand-washing before meals has been made mandatory. Meal times have also been staggered such that only two companies will eat at the cookhouse at one time. The cookhouse can accommodate four to five companies.
The number of guests a recruit can bring to their BMTC graduation parade and to direct enlistment, during which parents are invited to tour SAF camps and interact with commanders, might also be reduced.
There are currently about 5,000 recruits who are training at the centre in Pulau Tekong. One batch will graduate in about three weeks.
In 2009, the last time Singapore activated code orange due to the swine flu (H1N1), the number of invited guests per person for BMTC graduation parades was reduced from four to two.
Second Lieutenant Frederick Tang, 22, who is a platoon commander at BMTC, said bleach has been given to recruits so that they can clean their bunks and common areas more thoroughly.
"We encourage the recruits to sound off whenever they are feeling unwell. Any of them who display any symptoms will be separated from the others and brought to the medical centre to be assessed."
Recruit Zachary Ho, 18, said that he felt reassured after attending a briefing by his company commander on the measures that the BMTC has taken.
"Measures like having screening for visitors who enter Pulau Tekong gave me a sense of security and comfort that the environment here is safe."