Singapore to bar visitors from Cheongdo and Daegu amid rise in coronavirus cases in South Korea

Travellers arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 14, 2020. Returning Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with a travel history to Cheongdo and Daegu within the last 14 days will be issued a stay-home notice. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Singapore will bar visitors from Cheongdo county and Daegu city in South Korea, as the number of coronavirus cases in these areas continues to climb.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (Feb 25) also sounded an alert that as the number of Covid-19 cases increases worldwide, Singapore must expect to see the number of cases rise because of the risk of imported cases.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus with Mr Gan, said that returning Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with a travel history to Cheongdo and Daegu within the last 14 days will be issued a stay-home notice.

This means that they will not be allowed to leave their homes for 14 days after they return to Singapore.

South Korea, where 10 have died, has raised its virus alert to red - the highest - as the number of cases continues to spike, with a total of 977 at last count.

At least 511 cases are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, and 113 cases are from Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo.

With the growing number of cases in South Korea, visitors and returning travellers pose a heightened risk, said Mr Gan.

"While we have seen the number of new cases here in Singapore remain low over the last few days, we must remain aware that the global situation remains dynamic and we cannot afford to be complacent," Mr Gan said.

There has been a surge in the number of cases globally, he noted.

"This means the risk of importation remains serious and imminent. We must therefore expect to see the number of cases in Singapore increase as the virus (spreads)," he said.

He noted that Singapore has taken timely and decisive measures to reduce the risk of transmission since January, including isolation and quarantine.

"We continually adjust our risk assessment… We will not hesitate to take further measures to keep Singapore safe as the situation warrants," Mr Gan added.

On Feb 22, the Ministry of Health advised travellers to avoid non-essential travel to Daegu and Cheongdo and to take precautions when travelling to the rest of South Korea.

There are now 91 Covid-19 confirmed cases in Singapore, with one announced on Tuesday. So far, 58 have been discharged, while seven are in intensive care.

Countries outside China are struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has surfaced in more than 30 nations, with major outbreaks happening in South Korea, Iran and Italy, fuelling fears of a global pandemic.

In Italy, which is the worst hit in Europe, more than 200 people have been infected and seven people have died, prompting some areas to shut schools and ban public events.

"Italy is on our radar," said Mr Wong, when asked if Singapore was concerned about the growing number of cases there.

Iran - with the highest number of cases in the Middle East - has reported 15 deaths out of a total of about 61 cases, prompting Turkey to close its land border with Iran and halt incoming flights.

Meanwhile, countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait have reported their first cases.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the outbreak remains an international emergency that is likely to spread further.

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