Singapore to bar visitors from South Korea, north Italy and Iran

A driver getting a coronavirus test done at a drive-through clinic in Seoul yesterday. With the latest ban on visitors, Singaporeans, residents and long-term pass holders who have been to the affected Covid-19-hit areas in the past 14 days will be al
A driver getting a coronavirus test done at a drive-through clinic in Seoul yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Other travellers with symptoms may face Covid-19 swab tests at checkpoints

Singapore has expanded its entry restrictions to bar visitors who have travelled to South Korea, Iran or northern Italy within the past 14 days, as the fight against the spread of the coronavirus intensifies.

Apart from this, to keep imported cases at bay, all travellers entering the country who have a fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness may be required to undergo a Covid-19 swab test at the checkpoint.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced the enhanced measures yesterday, as he warned of the need to be ready for "new spikes" in cases here. The measures kick in today at 11.59pm.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministry panel fighting the virus, told reporters: "We have been monitoring the virus situation very closely and, as all of you know, it is spreading very quickly to countries everywhere. And, in Singapore, as a small, open city connected to the world, we face a higher risk of imported cases."

Before the ban on travellers from South Korea, northern Italy and Iran, there were similar restrictions in place for travellers from China and parts of South Korea.

With the ban, Singaporeans, residents and long-term pass holders who have been to these Covid-19-hit areas in the past 14 days will be allowed in, but will be issued a stay-home notice. Singaporeans have also been advised to defer non-essential travel to Iran, northern Italy, South Korea and Japan, where cases have spiked.

At checkpoints, travellers entering Singapore who have a fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness may be required to undergo a coronavirus swab test. They can carry on with their journeys in Singapore after undergoing the test, but will be advised not to mingle, as a precautionary measure.

The test results could take between three and six hours. Those who test positive will be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Short-term visitors who refuse to undergo the test will be denied entry, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse the test could have their passes and privileges revoked or shortened.

All travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with testing may face penalties under the Infectious Diseases Act.

An MOH statement said the Covid-19 swab test kit deployed at checkpoints allows Singapore to test beyond persons who are referred to hospitals and extend testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precaution.

This "further increases our likelihood of detecting imported cases at the point of entry", it said.

As with any test, a negative result does not completely rule out the possibility of infection. "As such, symptomatic travellers with a negative test result should continue to minimise social contact and seek medical attention should symptoms not improve over the next three days," it said.

 
 
 

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, said: "Despite our very best efforts, we have to be mentally prepared for the number of infected cases in Singapore to go up. I think the experience so far these past few days in Singapore, where the number of cases rises by just a handful every day, we've become accustomed to it."

As of noon yesterday, Singapore has reported 110 confirmed cases, of which 78 have fully recovered and been discharged.

More than 92,000 cases of Covid-19 have been reported globally, with more than 12,000 outside China. South Korea has over 5,100 cases, Italy over 2,000, Iran over 2,300 and Japan 283.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore to bar visitors from South Korea, north Italy and Iran'. Print Edition | Subscribe