Coronavirus: About 200 police officers deployed to government quarantine facilities, says Shanmugam

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam during a visit to Civil Service Club @ Changi II, a chalet which has been designated a government quarantine facility, on Feb 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - About 200 police officers have been deployed islandwide to administer security at government quarantine facilities, and more may be roped in when more of these facilities are set up, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday (Feb 10).

They will, among other things, ensure that law and order is maintained at the facilities. Also, they check regularly that "quarantine is being observed", said Mr Shanmugam.

He was speaking to reporters during a visit to Civil Service Club @ Changi II, a chalet which has been designated a government quarantine facility.

There are about 370 people in government quarantine facilities as of Sunday (Feb 9), the Ministry of National Development (MND) told The Straits Times on Tuesday (Feb 10). This is up from 222 a week ago.

Those under quarantine have to stay home or in government quarantine facilities. Currently, government quarantine facilities can accommodate about 1,000 people.

MND said the Government will continue to monitor the evolving coronavirus situation, and adjust the capacity of government quarantine facilities accordingly.

There are 45 confirmed local coronavirus cases as of Tuesday night (Feb 10).

With the authorities unable to trace some cases to the source of infection, Singapore raised its disease outbreak response one level to orange on Feb 7.

Orange means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact, though the situation is still under control. It is one step below red, which signifies an out-of-control pandemic.

Singapore has put extra measures in place to reduce mingling in schools, tighten access to hospitals and limit large events.

On Monday (Feb 10), Mr Shanmugam said the tasks the Home Team officers are undertaking to control the virus outbreak include managing border operations and conducting temperature checks.

"It's been a lot of strain on them... they've been doing a tremendous job," he said, adding that officers have also been helping in contact tracing.

He told reporters that a Homefront Crisis Executive Group (HCEG), made up of the permanent secretaries and senior officials of relevant ministries, is also dealing with the outbreak.

The HCEG coordinates responses during national emergencies or periods of potential threat, and has swung into action during events such as the Hotel New World collapse in 1986; the hijacking of a Singapore Airlines plane in 1991; after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and during the Sars outbreak in 2003.

The Home Affairs Ministry's permanent secretary, Mr Pang Kin Keong, chairs the group, Mr Shanmugam disclosed on Monday.

"They give directions, they execute the decisions of the ministerial task force, and they have been, I have to say, busting their guts and working round the clock."

The group also offers suggestions to the multi-ministerial task force on the coronavirus that is co-chaired by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

It has been involved with the task force's decisions on "everything we have done so far", he said, including the reasons for raising the response level to orange and the travel restrictions that have been imposed.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Julius Lim, commander of Bedok Police Division, said that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has "spared no effort" in ensuring the safety of its officers at the quarantine facilities, including making sure they have the appropriate protective gear.

"We've been very appreciative, very proud of the efforts and the hard work that have been put in by our police officers, as well as the safety and security managers... the SPF stands ready to continue to play our part to help bring this outbreak under control."

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