Singapore on alert as mystery pneumonia hits Chinese city

It starts screening all travellers from Wuhan for fever as cases continue to climb there; HK, Taiwan do the same

Travellers arriving at Changi Airport terminal one arrival hall on Jan 3, 2020.
Travellers arriving at Changi Airport terminal one arrival hall on Jan 3, 2020.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

A mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has left more than 40 people sick in China has prompted airports in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan to implement fever screening.

The Straits Times understands that passengers arriving on Scoot Flight TR 121 (codeshare with SilkAir and Singapore Airlines) at 5.30am today, from Wuhan city in China's Hubei province, will be the first to undergo thermal scanning at Changi Airport's Terminal 1.

Passengers coming in from Wuhan will receive a Ministry of Health travel advisory during the flight to advise them to seek medical attention if they have fever and shortness of breath within two weeks of being in Wuhan.

The information will also be displayed on digital panels in the arrival hall.

For outbound passengers, the advisory will be displayed on digital panels above check-in counters and in the departure hall.

The advisory states, among other things, that those travelling to Wuhan should avoid contact with live animals, including poultry and birds, and avoid consuming raw and undercooked meat. They should also wash their hands frequently.

In Hong Kong, the authorities deployed thermal imaging systems as part of increased fever surveillance at checkpoints, as two more people were hospitalised for suspected viral pneumonia, Bloomberg reported.

Taiwan also implemented similar measures, its Centres for Disease Control reportedly said on Tuesday.

The surveillance comes as the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission has confirmed more cases of the viral pneumonia.

It said yesterday in a statement that there were 44 patients with an "unexplained diagnosis of viral pneumonia" - up from the 27 announced on Tuesday.

Eleven of the patients were critically ill, while the rest were in stable condition. Fever was the main symptom, and a few patients had difficulty breathing, said the commission, which also tracked 121 close contacts.


The authorities are still identifying the cause of the infection, but "influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus infection and other common respiratory diseases have been excluded", it said, without mentioning severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

It added that preliminary investigations showed no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.

It also confirmed that some cases involved operators in the Wuhan South China Seafood City, which has since been closed.

Hong Kong's Hospital Authority said on its website yesterday that the two new suspected cases, who had been to Wuhan in the past 14 days, were in stable condition.

A preliminary probe showed that they had not been to the Wuhan wet market before the onset of symptoms.

Three other people in Hong Kong were hospitalised earlier, and two have since been discharged.

The Wuhan outbreak has triggered worries about the potential jump of an unknown virus to humans - reminiscent of Sars, which killed almost 800 people from 2002 to 2003.

The World Health Organisation has been in touch with the Chinese government and investigations are under way, though officials cannot yet confirm which pathogen is responsible, Bloomberg quoted spokesman Tarik Jasarevic as saying in Geneva.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore on alert as mystery pneumonia hits Chinese city'. Subscribe