SINGAPORE - Singaporean students studying overseas are encouraged to consider returning home soon, given the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases around the world, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Tuesday (March 17).
MFA's advisory comes after Singapore's institutes of higher learning - polytechnics, universities and the Institute of Technical Education - began to recall students on overseas exchanges and internships and suspended all official overseas placements until the end of July.
It also reiterated that the Government will liaise with airlines to facilitate flights to key cities where necessary during this period to cater to demand for return flights to Singapore.
"Many countries are imposing travel restrictions or closing their borders, transport operators and airlines are cutting services, and many services and facilities, including educational institutions, have also been closed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19," MFA said.
It also advised overseas Singaporean students who have yet to return home to observe the following points:
- Take all necessary precautions, observe good personal hygiene, monitor local developments, and heed the advice of local authorities.
- eRegister at the MFA website soonest to enable MFA to contact them should the need arise. Students should also check the Ministry of Health website and MFA website for the latest measures implemented by Singapore.
- Ensure that they will have continued access to medical facilities near them, and to have appropriate health insurance coverage.
- Be prepared that these medical facilities may become overwhelmed, and may not be able to provide the same level of care and support as in Singapore.
- Be prepared to source for alternative accommodation in the event of hostel closures.
- Factor in the risks of severe disruption to travel routes and further travel advisories/restrictions at short notice, which may affect their travel plans to return home.
- Discuss arrangements to continue their learning in Singapore with their educational institution.
MFA advised students requiring assistance while overseas to contact their educational institutions, student associations, the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission or the Singapore Global Network for guidance.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday also addressed some of the questions by Singaporean students overseas:
1. I am now doing internship/studying in a foreign university. I am happy where I am. Do I have to come back to Singapore?
We encourage you to return home soon. The global Covid-19 situation is very fluid and uncertain. Other than travel restrictions and reduction of services, as cases grow, there may be a strain on medical facilities. Should you fall ill, medical care may not be readily available. And with the increasing disruption to travel routes, you may face issues booking flights when you do decide to return.
2. What if no flights are available?
The Government will arrange more flights with Singapore Airlines if need be, especially to key cities.
Whether you manage to book a flight or not, do register with MFA so we can contact you if necessary.
3. There are now so many restrictions. Some cities are in lockdown mode, others will subject me to stay-home notice (SHN) when I return to Singapore. How best should I plan my trip back?
Don’t worry about SHN; it is a necessary precaution to protect you and your family. So go book an available flight back.
A group of students from the National University of Singapore has put together a page that provides information such as worldwide travel restrictions, important contacts and precautionary measures in Singapore. They are also working to add flight information. They have made arrangements to return home themselves, and now want to help other Singaporean students who want to come home. They did a great job.
4. Will I be subject to SHN even if I just transit through a city where Singapore has imposed an SHN requirement?
Yes, but don’t worry about it. It is more important that you come home safe. Just book an available flight back.
5. I am worried that my internship or academic credits will be affected if I return to Singapore. What should I do?
Most institutions in areas affected by Covid-19 are making alternative learning arrangements for their students. Your institution would be able to guide you on other arrangements for you to continue your learning.
The Ministry of Education can also be reached at email@example.com.