S'pore monitoring Mers situation in Thailand but no airport screening yet: Gan Kim Yong

SINGAPORE - Travellers arriving from Thailand are not being screened at the airport for symptoms of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) as of now because there has only been one such case and the situation there is contained so far, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Friday.

But Singapore will continue to monitor developments closely " and if necessary then we look at what other measures may be introduced," he told reporters after attending the annual general meeting of the Chinese Development Assistance Council, which he chairs.

Mr Gan said passengers arriving from Mers-affected countries such South Korea and in the Middle East are currently being screened.

He added that it was a question of when, and not if, Mers will hit Singapore due to the global travel patterns and transport connections nowadays.

But he assured Singaporeans that hospitals here are prepared and have been practising procedures and protocols in the event that they have to handle Mers patients.

Reminders and updates have also been sent to general practitioners as they are usually the first line of contact with patients, he added.

Mr Gan said it was important for Singaporeans to be always aware of the latest developments with regards to Mers in the region and in other parts of the world, "so that we are always on the lookout, always alert because sooner or later, Mers will arrive, so we'll have our first case in time to come because of the global connection through air travel as well as other modes of transport".

"So we have to expect the first case to come. On the medical side, our hospitals have been reminded repeatedly to make sure they are ready. They are vigilant, they remain vigilant and also we send reminders and also updates to our doctors, our GPs in primary care ... They are reminded and updated on developments so that they are aware. We also continue to exercise and to practise our hospitals so that they are familiar with the procedures of handling Mers cases if it does happen in Singapore," he said.

Thailand confirmed its first case of Mers on Thursday, a 75-year-old businessman from Oman, just as an outbreak in South Korea that began last month and has infected 166 people and killed 24 of them, appeared to be levelling off.

ziliang@sph.com