SINGAPORE - A new Stay-Home Notice will be introduced for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning from mainland China.
They will be required to remain at home at all times for 14 days, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters on Monday (Feb 17).
The new scheme will take effect from Feb 18 at 11.59pm, and apply to all returnees with recent travel history to China, outside of Hubei province, within the last 14 days.
This will be stricter than the current leave of absence (LOA), which has allowed those returning to leave their homes briefly, for example, for their meals or to buy household supplies.
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on the coronavirus with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, stressed that there will be penalties for those who flout the Stay-Home Notice and the Government will ensure strict compliance.
With the new scheme in place, the Government will no longer be issuing any more new LOA notices to returnees with recent travel history to China, outside of Hubei province.
Mr Wong said: "There are a substantial number of Singapore citizens, PRs, long-term pass holders still in China.
"At some point in time, they will want to come back to Singapore, especially after the Chinese New Year holidays. There's a higher chance now that some of them will be infected with the virus."
The Stay-Home Notice also applies to all work-pass holders with recent travel history to mainland China, which means they should not leave their place of residence, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Monday.
Enforcement officers will carry out random calls and spot checks, among other measures, to ensure that those serving out the Stay-Home Notice comply with requirements.
There are penalties for those who flout the rules, Mr Wong said. For example, foreigners may get their work or long-term passes revoked, while Singaporeans could be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act. Under the Act, first-time offenders can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or both.
MOM said that existing work-pass holders with Hubei-issued passports or with recent travel history to Hubei should still defer their return. They will continue to be quarantined when they return to Singapore.
Mr Wong noted that there has been a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in China, in provinces outside Hubei, where the virus was first reported. There are now more than 12,000 cases outside the province, up from 4,000 at the end of January, he said.
The new scheme "will ensure we reduce the number of imported cases from China and then we can focus our energies on reducing the risk of local transmission of the virus within Singapore", he said.
Support will be provided to those who need assistance to get daily necessities while they are at home for 14 days.
Students, for example, can approach their schools or institutions, or the Ministry of Education.
MOM said that employers have to ensure that their work-pass holders on Stay-Home Notice can obtain meals and other daily essentials. If the work-pass holder is unable to make his own arrangements, the employer will have to make the necessary arrangements.
If support from employers is not forthcoming, work-pass holders should report their difficulties to MOM.
Even when under the Stay-Home Notice, the ministry said there was no need for workers to be segregated from others living in the same room or apartment, though social interactions and contact should be minimised.
The $100 daily allowance for those under the 14-day Leave of Absence will also be extended to employers of Singaporeans, permanent residents and work-pass holders under the Stay-Home Notice, said MOM.
The conditions for being eligible for the allowance remain similar to before.
Eligible employers can apply for $100 daily per affected worker who travelled to mainland China on or before Jan 31 and placed on the notice after they returned to Singapore. They can also qualify for levy waiver for affected foreign workers for the notice period.
Affected self-employed citizens and PRs under the notice can apply for the $100 daily allowance as well.
More details, including how to apply for the allowance, can be found on MOM's website.
Since then, as of Feb 16, there have been a total of 75 cases, of which 53 were locally transmitted.
The early patients were tourists from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak.
As of Sunday, 19 patients have been discharged - eight Chinese nationals, 10 Singaporeans and a Singapore permanent resident. However, five of the other 56 patients are still in critical care.
There are now five clusters of infection in Singapore: Grace Assembly of God church, The Life Church and Missions Singapore, the Yong Thai Hang health products shop, the Grand Hyatt Singapore and a Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Feb 14 that the impact of the virus here has already surpassed that of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, adding that the economy would definitely "take a hit".
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a video message on Sunday that the Government will do "all that is necessary" to help workers and firms recover from the crisis".
He added: "Never doubt that Singapore has the means to bounce back from this outbreak."