Wuhan virus: Singapore to bar entry of new visitors with Hubei history

Tough new measures to contain Wuhan virus; 2 new cases confirmed in S'pore

Staff of My First Skool at Block 997, Buangkok Crescent conducting a temperature and visual screening for children yesterday.
Staff of My First Skool at Block 997, Buangkok Crescent conducting a temperature and visual screening for children yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Tough new measures, including banning new visitors who travelled recently to Hubei from entering Singapore, are being implemented, as two new cases of the Wuhan virus were confirmed here yesterday, bringing the total number of infections in Singapore to seven.

With three confirmed cases within the last 24 hours, infections among Chinese nationals from Wuhan's Hubei province here are accelerating, in line with the spike in global infection rates, said the Health Ministry yesterday.

This presents a heightened risk to Singapore, although there is no evidence yet that the virus has spread in the community.

So new visitors with passports issued in Hubei or those who have travelled there recently will not be allowed to enter Singapore, or transit here, adding to increasingly stringent measures being taken against such travellers globally.

Also, for the 2,000 or so recent travellers from Hubei who are in Singapore, those deemed to be of higher risk will be quarantined.

Quarantine orders have legal force, with severe penalties for non-compliance, including possible jail time.

The virus, which has infected more than 4,500 people and killed 106, hit Asian markets yesterday, with Singapore stocks ending 1.8 per cent lower.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force set up to fight the spread of the virus, told reporters yesterday: "These are not ordinary times. This is a very fluid and rapidly evolving situation. "The key is not what we do at any point in time, but how swiftly we adjust our plans and actions."

The enhanced measures apply to three groups: recent travellers from Hubei already in Singapore; returning residents of Singapore or long-term pass holders with travel history to Hubei or with China passports issued in Hubei; and new visitors with a travel history to Hubei or China passports issued in Hubei, whose capital city Wuhan is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The authorities have started contacting the first group - recent travellers from Hubei already in Singapore and Chinese nationals with Hubei passports.

There are an estimated 2,000 such individuals here, about 1,000 on short-term visas. Half are visitors and half are residents.

Those assessed to be at higher risk will be quarantined.

 
 
 

The second group - returning residents and long-term pass holders with travel history to Hubei or with China passports issued in Hubei - will be quarantined on their return.

And from noon today, there will be no entry or transit through Singapore for all new visitors with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days, or holders of China passports issued in Hubei - the third group in question.

"These measures will reduce the risk of community spread in Singapore, and better protect our people," said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Facebook.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned against spreading rumours. "Sharing news responsibly is an important way we can protect ourselves," he said.

Like the previous five cases, the two new patients here are Chinese nationals from Wuhan.

One is a 56-year-old man who had been staying with family members in Pasir Ris Grove.

The second is a 35-year-old man who stayed at Marina Bay Sands.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore to bar entry of new visitors with Hubei history'. Subscribe