Singapore sees record 47 new coronavirus cases; S’poreans, residents told to defer all overseas travel

People arriving at Changi Airport on March 16, 2020. In line with recent trends, 33 of the new cases are imported and 30 of them involve Singapore residents returning from abroad. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans and residents returning to the country will all have to serve a 14-day isolation period, while people in the country should defer all travel overseas, the authorities announced on Wednesday (March 18), as the country saw 47 new cases, an all-time high.

This brings the total number of cases to 313.

In line with recent trends, 33 of the new cases are imported and 30 of them involve Singapore residents returning from abroad.

The new, broader measures to contain the coronavirus come as the country braces itself for more to come.

As more Singaporeans, such as students and workers, return home, the country has to be mentally prepared that numbers could remain high in the coming days, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force set up to deal with the outbreak.

The rise in number of infected cases on Wednesday and in recent days was a cause of concern for all, he noted during a press conference on Wednesday.

"We cannot afford to take further risks if the number of imported cases continue to rise. That is why we're imposing additional border controls and travel restrictions today."

So for outgoing residents, the advisory had been raised from stopping non-essential travel to defer all travel.

As for those returning, he added: "This means a Singaporean coming back from anywhere in the world will have to serve a full 14-day self-isolation period.

The extension of the stay-home notice to all people arriving will take effect on Friday at 11.59pm.

New measures are being planned for social distancing among people, especially among seniors and vulnerable people in the community, to further reduce risk of local transmission.

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The number of new cases daily in Singapore has been on an uptick with 14, 17 and 23 cases on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday respectively, all of which were new daily highs.

Task force co-chair and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted that measures put in place such as physical distancing and social measures are aimed at reducing the peak case number, and spreading things out.

This is so that the health system has sufficient capacity for the cases, and to preserve as much buffer capacity as possible, he explained.

"By deferring the peak, it also means that the outbreak might last longer and instead of everyone coming down with Covid-19, we will have to stretch it out.

"We have to be prepared for that," he said.

He added: "It's important to bear in mind that (while) we have planned for it, we must never be complacent and take it for granted.

"We must do all we can and aim to reduce the total number of cases so that our healthcare system can still manage them."

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