Firms advised to defer China trips, avoid Hubei

People are seen wearing masks as they walk through Changi Airport's Terminal 3 on Jan 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Firms should defer non-essential travel to China and avoid Hubei province altogether, said Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Wednesday (Jan 29), referencing advisories put out by the Manpower and Health ministries.

Employers should also ask their staff if they have travelled to China recently or if they have plans to go there.

Companies are to closely monitor the health of employees who have been in China for 14 days after their return to Singapore, and to consider implementing flexible work options such as telecommuting and teleconferencing for such staff.

Employees under quarantine order will be deemed to be on paid sick leave, ESG noted.

Its advisory comes as Singapore toughens measures to counter the Wuhan virus as the number of deaths and confirmed cases rises.

"Although the current situation in Singapore is stable and there are no signs of community spread, we advise all businesses to be prepared for different scenarios," the advisory noted.

ESG recommended that firms devise continuity plans outlining processes to follow if a disaster strikes.

It is working with the Singapore Business Federation to develop a reference guide to help companies in this area, noting that it "will serve as a general reference for enterprises in planning for a pandemic caused by influenza and other novel respiratory infections, and recommend actions enterprises may take".

"This guide will be made available soon on our website," it added.

The ESG advisory comes a day after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it will reject new work pass applications for workers from Hubei province with immediate effect.

MOM said on Tuesday (Jan 28) that it has rejected more than 30 such applications.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said on Wednesday that the overall impact of this move is quite small, especially considering the distribution across sectors and firms.

"So far, we have no indication that there are severe delays (to construction and work processes) as a result of these travel restrictions," she added.

The MOM has not set a date on when the ban will expire but noted that renewal applications for existing work pass workers from Hubei will not be affected.

It also said: "Existing work pass holders from Hubei who are currently away or with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days will be quarantined at home or other suitable facilities upon returning to Singapore."

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