Wuhan virus: Many more expected to be quarantined as new measures kick in

Anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time may be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches.
Anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time may be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Many more people are expected to be quarantined in efforts to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus here, as the definition of those who pose a risk has been widened.

Currently, the only people placed under quarantine are 75 close contacts of the first four confirmed cases that the authorities have been able to reach.

But with tougher new measures kicking in, the quarantine will apply to about 2,000 people who were in Hubei in the past fortnight, if deemed to be a risk, or those who carry passports issued there, as well as residents and long-term pass holders returning from Hubei.

They include some of the people from educational, childcare and eldercare facilities who, until yesterday, would have been given a leave of absence.

Quarantine is far more stringent than leave of absence, as it comes under the Infectious Diseases Act. Anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time may be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry committee overseeing the Wuhan virus crisis, said yesterday that the new measures are necessary as "it is clear that there is heightened risk from Hubei travellers".

He added that the virus is currently not spreading in the com-munity, but there is a "real risk" of such spread if the situation is not contained.

To make it less onerous for them, residents here will be given the option of home quarantine if they have the facilities for it. This includes having a room and toilet facilities not shared with anyone else.

Those under home quarantine cannot physically interact with others living on the same premises or leave home. Spot checks - both by phone and in person - will be carried out to ensure they abide by the restrictions. Those who do not have such facilities at home may opt for government quarantine facilities.

 
 
 

The authorities said they would assist quarantined people who live alone and need to get groceries, for example.

The Government will also provide some financial help by giving self-employed people $100 for each day they are quarantined. The money goes to their employers if they are salaried, as the quarantine period will not come from their annual leave.

Should those placed under quarantine exhibit symptoms associated with the virus, they will need to be taken to a hospital and treated as suspect cases.

The Government is footing the hospital bills for all suspect and confirmed cases, including for foreigners, because their illness is caused by an emerging disease.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2020, with the headline 'Many more expected to be quarantined as new measures kick in'. Print Edition | Subscribe