Singapore authorities fight spread of false rumours

Public urged not to circulate false news, as ICA, MOH debunk two online stories

The temperature screening stations that have been set up at the Tuas Checkpoint. PHOTO: ST FILE

Even as Singapore readies itself for a potential spike in the number of people infected with the Wuhan virus, the authorities here are fighting to stem the spread of something else - rumours.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that stories making the rounds online, that more than 100 travellers from Wuhan were denied entry to Singapore upon arrival, are untrue.

"ICA advises members of the public not to speculate or help spread unfounded rumours," the authority said, adding that members of the public can visit the Ministry of Health's (MOH) website for updates on the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, situation.

Also untrue - online stories that an individual here has died from the novel coronavirus, said MOH in a Facebook post, also on Saturday.

"MOH is aware of rumours circulating online that an individual has died from the novel coronavirus infection at a shopping mall in Singapore.

"We would like to clarify that there have been no deaths among suspect or confirmed cases to date," the ministry said.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had reminded Singaporeans that same day to make sure that they check information they receive and not spread fake news.

Speaking to reporters at Changi Airport after visiting workers there on the first day of Chinese New Year, Mr Heng said: "I hope that every one of us will do our part as individuals to make sure that we take special precautions, and make sure that we observe good hygiene habits.

"And importantly, to watch out and keep a lookout for information and make sure that we do not spread false information."

The message was repeated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a tweet yesterday upon his return from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In his tweet, PM Lee reminded Singaporeans "not to spread unsubstantiated rumours and false information".

In its latest update last evening, MOH said there are four confirmed cases in Singapore. There have now been a total of 92 suspect cases, of which 46 have tested negative and four tested positive.

Test results for the remaining 42 cases are pending, MOH said.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, after visiting staff at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said on Saturday: "What is important is that we must work together. With the Government, the people, everyone in Singapore working together, I'm confident that we will be able to contain the situation."

The Wuhan virus presents a new challenge for Singapore but the Republic is better prepared to tackle it, compared with when severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) broke out in 2003, he told reporters.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2020, with the headline Singapore authorities fight spread of false rumours. Subscribe