SINGAPORE - Singapore on Friday (March 13) announced sweeping new measures to contain the import of Covid-19 cases as well as stem the spread in the Republic.
They cover more border restrictions and social distancing measures including limiting the size of gatherings to 250 people.
The measures are:
* Additional travel advisories to Singaporeans against non-essential travel to countries hard hit by the coronavirus.
* From 11.59pm on Sunday (March 15), all new visitors who had been to Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry or transit.
* Also from 11.59pm on Sunday, Singaporeans and permanent residents who had been to Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days will be issued a stay-home notice (SHN). This means they must stay home at all times for 14 days after returning to Singapore.
The notice will also apply to long-term pass holders with recent travel history to these countries within the last 14 days.
* Any visitor who shows signs of symptoms at the checkpoints will also have to serve a 14-day SHN, even if they test negative for Covid-19. This is an extension of an earlier measure where such travellers must undergo a swab test at the checkpoint.
* With immediate effect, Singapore will cease port calls for all cruise vessels.
* All ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events, with 250 participants or more, must be deferred or cancelled. For events that have already been committed to, organisers must demonstrate that satisfactory precautionary measures have been put in place before they can proceed.
* For gatherings, organisers should reduce crowding and improve ventilation. For example, participants could be seated at least 1m apart from one another, and reduce contact such as by not shaking hands.
* Employers should put in place measures to reduce close contact, such as implementing tele-commuting and video-conferencing, staggering work hours and allowing staff to commute at off-peak hours.
* At public venues, measures to reduce close contact could include seats set at least a metre apart at dining venues, while entertainment venues and tourist attractions such as casinos, cinemas, theme parks, museums and galleries could limit the number of visitors at any one time and increase spacing among visitors.
The measures were announced by Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who chair the multi-ministry task force on tackling the virus.
Mr Gan said: "Despite our best efforts, we still see new cases every day and increasingly more imported cases."
More are expected as cases rise globally, underscoring the importance of border control restrictions.
"But even as we continue to tighten, we know it is not possible to close borders, we need to ensure measures are sustainable in the long term, and that life can go on," he added.
Mr Wong said that the authorities are also mindful of the need to persist and do more within Singapore, and do more to contain the virus, which is already circulating within the population.
"All the things we are doing will continue, and remain important," he said.
"But social distancing can also help and that's why we have highlighted earlier that we are doing a suspension of senior-oriented activities by government agencies," he said.
The basic idea around social distancing, he explained, is to reduce density and crowding, and because many event organisers need some benchmark, 250 people was used as a guide to let organisers know how to benchmark the size of an event.
In the past two weeks, the number of cases of Covid-19 outside China increased more than tenfold, and the number of affected countries tripled.
There are now more than 125,000 cases in 118 countries, and more than 4,000 deaths.
As of Thursday, almost one quarter of Singapore's total confirmed cases were imported.
Over the past 10 days alone, there have been 23 imported cases, or nearly a third of all new cases. These included 13 cases with travel history to European countries, and six cases from Indonesia.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic on Wednesday, and called upon governments around the world to do more to combat the virus.
The WHO cited Singapore as a country that has already taken proactive measures to contain the virus.