Efforts to keep Mers at bay

We assure Dr Quek Koh Choon that the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) have been closely monitoring the situation in Saudi Arabia ("Review Mers precautions as pilgrimage season approaches"; last Thursday).

With globalised travel patterns, the possibility of an imported case here cannot be ruled out. Hence, MOH and Muis will continue to work closely on measures to minimise such a possibility.

Muis works with the relevant travel agents to ensure that MOH's health advisory is provided to pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia.

Those with pre-existing chronic medical conditions have been advised to consult a doctor before travelling, in order to assess whether making the pilgrimage is medically advisable.

These precautionary measures have been put in place for our haj pilgrims since 2013.

Health advisories are also given to incoming travellers from areas affected by Mers-CoV, as well as for outgoing travellers to those areas.

In addition, temperature screening at air checkpoints for passengers arriving from the Middle East has remained in place.

Our hospitals remain vigilant to test for Mers-CoV where clinically indicated, such as in patients with serious respiratory illness and a compatible travel history.

All suspected and confirmed cases will be isolated and managed under strict airborne infection control precautions. If a case is detected, MOH will conduct contact tracing, and all close contacts will be placed under quarantine.

Our assessment is that the risk of an outbreak here remains low, as the occurrence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus has not been reported.

Thus, there is currently no advisory against travel to countries of the Arabian Peninsula.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health

Zainul Abidin Ibrahim
Director, Strategic Engagement
Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Efforts to keep Mers at bay'. Print Edition | Subscribe