Coronavirus: 524 people under quarantine in Singapore, says Lawrence Wong

Heritage Chalet in Pasir Ris, seen here in a photo taken on Jan 26, 2020, is one of the government quarantine facilities. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There were 524 people under quarantine as of Sunday (Feb 2) night, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the spread of the new coronavirus from Wuhan.

Of these, 222 are in government quarantine facilities and 302 are serving quarantine at home, he said.

"Persons under quarantine are required to stay in their designated location at all times during the quarantine period," Mr Wong told Parliament on Monday.

"They cannot physically interact with others living in the same premises."

Those under home quarantine will have to take video and phone calls to ensure they do not leave the premises, and regular spot checks will also be conducted. Those who breach the quarantine order may be fined or jailed.

In his ministerial statement, Mr Wong said being able to detect and isolate infected patients and their close contacts is Singapore's second line of defence against the virus, which has infected more than 17,000 people and killed 361 in mainland China.

Those who are considered high-risk are put under quarantine, while lower-risk groups, such as travellers returning from other parts of mainland China, are asked to take a 14-day leave of absence.

Those on leave of absence are expected to remain home as much as possible and maintain a record of those they come into close contact with.

They should also minimise time spent in public places, avoid crowds and keep tabs on their health, Mr Wong said.

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But he stressed that even though Singaporeans are concerned about themselves and their family members, they have to do their part to cooperate.

He cited reports of landlords stigmatising tenants based on their nationality, or evicting mainland Chinese tenants who are on leave of absence.

"Some residents, upon learning that there is a person under home quarantine or on leave of absence in the same apartment block, have asked that the person be moved elsewhere," he added.

"Such actions are not helpful and they have no place in our society," he said. "We are bigger than this in Singapore, and I hope all of us here in this House, regardless of political party, I hope that every Singaporean will stand together and we will all do our part to confront and condemn such prejudice and discrimination wherever they exist."

Mr Wong added that Singaporeans must not allow their prejudices and fears to pull apart society and foster greater division and suspicion.

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"At this point, no one can tell for sure how the situation will develop, or how long this will last," he said. "I am confident that we will succeed in this fight if we stand united as an effective Government, a cohesive people, and a resolute nation."

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