Wuhan virus: 15 people refused entry into Singapore following new travel restrictions

In a photo taken on Jan 22, Changi Airport staff screen passengers for possible Wuhan virus infection symptoms as they arrive in Singapore. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Fifteen travellers have been refused entry into Singapore in the thirteen hours since travel restrictions on those who with recent travel history to China kicked in late on Saturday (Feb 1).

The restrictions took effect at 11.59pm on Saturday, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that 15 have been rejected as of 1pm on Sunday.

"They comprise one Spanish, one British, one Malaysian, two US, five PRC and five Indian passport holders, due to either their travel histories to mainland China in the last 14 days, or suspension of visa facilities," the ICA said.

The Government had announced on Friday that all travellers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days will be barred from entering or transiting in Singapore as the nation ramps up measures to keep the Wuhan coronavirus at bay.

The virus, known as 2019-nCov, has infected more than 14,000 and killed more than 300 worldwide as of Sunday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Changi Airport to interact with customs officials and auxiliary police officers on Sunday, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said Singapore had to put in place travel restrictions due to the circumstances of the country.

One main reason was due to Singapore's small size and its corresponding dense population, he said.

"We know that the virus has spread to other parts of China, how much we don't know, so people could come, and if it comes, the spread in Singapore, with such an intense density can be quite substantial," said Mr Shanmugam.

"I am sure the Chinese government don't want it, and we don't want it. Our primary duty is to make sure Singaporeans are safe and our quarantine facilities are limited, our medical facilities can be easily stretched."

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The ICA said that the travel restrictions do not apply to Chinese nationals who are already in Singapore. For Chinese nationals who want to extend their social visit passes (SVPs), their applications will be assessed based on prevailing guidelines, it said.

It added that as of Saturday, it has approved more than 50 applications from Chinese passport holders to extend SVPs since the announcement of suspensions of new visas on Friday.

"We are agreeable to extend their stay because, for example, a Chinese visitor who had been granted entry into Singapore earlier, and was granted 30 days' stay, when they apply for an extension, would have been in Singapore for more than 14 days, and there is therefore less risk that they would be carrying the 2019-nCoV, as compared to others who may still be in China," the ICA added.

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