Wuhan virus: Singapore expands temperature screening to all travellers arriving from China

A thermal scanner set up at Changi Airport's Terminal 1 for travellers from Wuhan. PHOTO: KHAW BOON WAN/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday (Jan 20) that it is stepping up precautionary measures against the mysterious Wuhan virus in anticipation of more travellers in the lead-up to the Chinese New Year holidays.

The expanded measures include temperature screening for all travellers arriving from China at Changi Airport and issuing health advisory notices to them from Wednesday.

Previously, only travellers from the Chinese city of Wuhan were screened, and the advisory notices were not issued.

Together with the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, the MOH has also developed a joint clinical guidance about the disease and given them out to emergency department and infectious diseases physicians, as well as public sector hospital laboratories, to better prepare them for cases here.

The moves come even as the seventh suspected case in Singapore was identified on Monday, and more than 200 people have already been diagnosed with the new Sars-like virus in China, with cases also reported in Beijing and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

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South Korea, Thailand and Japan have also confirmed their first cases.

Countries and airports across the world, including international airports in the United States, have increased temperature screening for travellers.

Dr Lam Pin Min, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Health, said on Facebook that the MOH "is concerned about the increase in cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and exported cases to other Chinese cities and countries", adding that "we are closely monitoring the situation".

Singapore's seventh suspected case is a 44-year-old Singapore resident with pneumonia who recently travelled to Wuhan.

The MOH said she has been isolated as a precautionary measure although she did not visit the Huanan seafood wholesale market, where live animals and wildlife parts were reportedly sold, associated with the Wuhan virus cluster.

Her condition is stable at the moment.

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When The Straits Times visited Wuhan on Jan 10, 2020, residents in the central Chinese city appeared unperturbed by the mysterious viral outbreak. The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is believed to be the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.

Those found to have travelled to Wuhan within two weeks before they start showing pneumonia symptoms are already quarantined in hospital and investigated.

Pneumonia symptoms include fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

The six previous suspected cases in Singapore have all tested negative for the virus behind the pneumonia cases in Wuhan, going by an update from the MOH on Monday.

Health experts said that the Wuhan virus, although likely not as infectious as the Sars virus which killed almost 800 people 17 years ago, can be passed on from person to person.

Researchers at Imperial College London said in a study last Friday that it is possible that more than 1,700 people in Wuhan have already been infected with the pneumonia virus.

Although there has been no confirmed case of the virus in Singapore so far, the MOH said it expects more suspected cases or even imported cases due to Singapore's status as a travel hub.

"Once a case is confirmed, contact tracing will be initiated, and we will implement strict isolation, quarantine, and infection control and prevention measures to prevent further transmission," it said.

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The MOH warned travellers and members of the public to avoid contact with live animals and not to eat raw and undercooked meats in the meantime.

People should also observe good personal hygiene, wear a mask when they have a cough or runny nose, and see a doctor promptly if they feel unwell, the MOH said.

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