Wuhan virus: 92 Singaporeans back from Wuhan, but some still there

The crew of the chartered Scoot flight that evacuated Singaporeans from Wuhan arriving at Changi Airport yesterday. Scoot said surgical masks were given to all passengers, and the crew had to wear N95 masks and surgical gloves on board. Labour chief
The crew of the chartered Scoot flight that evacuated Singaporeans from Wuhan arriving at Changi Airport yesterday. Scoot said surgical masks were given to all passengers, and the crew had to wear N95 masks and surgical gloves on board. Labour chief Ng Chee Meng thanked the Scoot crew in a Facebook post. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The crew of the chartered Scoot flight that evacuated Singaporeans from Wuhan arriving at Changi Airport yesterday. Scoot said surgical masks were given to all passengers, and the crew had to wear N95 masks and surgical gloves on board. Labour chief
Singaporeans at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport boarding Flight TR121, which landed in Singapore at about 11.40am yesterday. Those found to have fever were not allowed to board, and all went through screening on arrival here.PHOTO: MFA

Small number displayed symptoms and might have to stay quarantined in China

Some Singaporeans with symptoms of the novel coronavirus remain stranded in Wuhan, even as 92 Singaporeans touched down at Changi Airport yesterday.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry committee overseeing the Wuhan virus crisis, said a small number of people displayed symptoms, although he did not have the specific figure.

"It is probably not safe for them to come back on the same plane," he said, noting that some of them might have to stay quarantined in China.

"Our embassy is in touch with them to ensure their welfare."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said the Singaporeans who have returned went through medical screening upon arrival.

It said MFA consular officers accompanied the Scoot flight to facilitate ground operations at Wuhan.

"In a telephone call with PRC State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday, Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan expressed the Singapore Government's appreciation to the PRC government, Hubei provincial government, Wuhan city government and the PRC Embassy in Singapore for facilitating the safe return of these Singaporeans," MFA said in a statement yesterday.

It added: "Those with fever or respiratory symptoms will be taken to designated hospitals for further examination, while the remaining passengers, including the MFA consular officers who facilitated the return of these Singaporeans from Wuhan, will be quarantined for 14 days."

Scoot said the flight, TR121, landed in Singapore at about 11.40am yesterday after leaving Wuhan at around 7am.

It was the return flight for TR120, which departed for Wuhan on Wednesday night with passengers stranded here.

A Scoot spokesman said measures were taken to ensure the safety of passengers and crew on the flight, which took four hours and 40 minutes.

Temperature screening was conducted at check-in and before passengers boarded, and passengers found to have fever were not allowed to board.

Surgical masks were given to all passengers, and the crew had to wear N95 masks and surgical gloves on board the flight, said Scoot.

It added that the flight operated with limited in-flight service, without distribution of food and beverages or sale of duty-free products.

 
 
 

Food packs were placed on the seats to limit physical interaction between passengers and crew.

The aircraft was also disinfected before it was boarded, and after arrival in Singapore.

Scoot also said it would not be operating another special flight to Wuhan yesterday evening, having initially planned to do so, due to insufficient demand.

The budget carrier had on Jan 23 cancelled all flights to the city in Hubei province.

The suspension is expected to last until late March, when it will be reviewed.

In a Facebook post, National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng thanked the Scoot crew for volunteering to work on the flight.

"I couldn't be more proud of our Scoot staff union leaders and members for stepping forward to serve our fellow Singaporeans without hesitation," said Mr Ng.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in another Facebook post that the flight was special as it signified the end of the ordeal of the 92 Singaporeans who were stuck in Wuhan.

He added that the trip to evacuate the Singaporeans came as a result of work by the MFA, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Changi Airport Group, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and Ministry of Health.

Several other countries have also been arranging for their citizens to leave Wuhan amid escalating concerns about the spread of the virus.

Japan evacuated more than 200 of its citizens from the city via two flights on Wednesday.

It said yesterday that three of those evacuated tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2020, with the headline '92 Singaporeans back from Wuhan, but some still there'. Print Edition | Subscribe