SINGAPORE - There are more than 1,900 Singaporeans in mainland China who are registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) but the actual number there is likely to be much higher, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday (March 2).
He also said in Parliament that the ministry is aware of one Singaporean who was infected with the coronavirus and hospitalised in China's Hubei province.
The Singapore embassy in Beijing contacted the man to offer help and he has since been discharged from hospital, he added in his reply to Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC).
The minister urged Singaporeans who are overseas to register with the MFA online amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in China and other countries.
This will enable the ministry to contact Singaporeans abroad and provide help in an emergency, he said.
"We've now made it even easier than ever before to e-register using SingPass Mobile," said Dr Balakrishnan, who is also the minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative.
"Our embassy in Beijing and our consulate-general in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Xiamen maintain close contact with the Singapore community in mainland China.
"Any Singaporean there who is in need of consular assistance can approach my colleagues in those missions at any time."
He also said many of the 266 Singaporeans and their family members who were evacuated from Hubei on two Scoot flights on Jan 30 and Feb 9 had registered with the ministry,
This made it much easier to contact them and arrange their return to Singapore, he added.
The 266 passengers were quarantined on landing in Singapore. Seven later tested positive for the coronavirus and all have since recovered and been discharged from hospital.
Dr Balakrishnan said: "I would like to commend the consular officers from MFA who have been working extra hard in this critical period to look out for overseas Singaporeans. We will not leave any Singaporean behind."
Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) asked why Singaporeans in China have not returned.
Dr Balakrishnan said some are living and working in China and their livelihoods depend on their presence there.
Others have family members there and feel an obligation to look after them, he said.
"Every family will have its own unique reasons. The key point is this: we will remain in touch and do our best to help."