SINGAPORE - Allocated government quarantine facilities in Singapore - such as chalets and university hostels - can accommodate about 1,000 people, should there be a need to do so.
At a press conference on Monday morning (Jan 27), Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said hostels at three universities have been designated as government quarantine facilities.
“I apologised to the students for the inconvenience and seek their understanding. This is part of our national response. I think as part of this national response, we just want to get the facilities ready,” he said.
“We hope it won’t happen but should there be more contact tracing and more confirmed cases, we will need the facilities.”
The affected student quarters include some of the blocks at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Prince George’s Park Residences, the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Graduate Hall 1, and the Singapore Management University’s (SMU) Prinsep Street Residences.
Mr Ong said he did not have the exact number of students affected by the move.
He added that a few more hostels will be affected, and his ministry will make a separate announcement in time to come.
Foreign students will continue to stay in different hostels, while local students are encouraged to stay home during this period.
On Monday, students at the affected hostels were seen packing up their belongings and lugging bulky bags and suitcases out of some living quarters at local universities after the schools issued notices demanding them to vacate their rooms in less than 24 hours.
Their student residences are being converted into government quarantine facilities for isolating individuals under a quarantine order.
This comes as quarantine centres across the island are being prepared as Singapore fights the spread of the Wuhan virus.
The notices for the students to move out were sent on Sunday, giving them a day to move out.
Several blocks at the NUS’ Prince George’s Park Residences have been designated a quarantine centre in a notice seen by The Straits Times.
In the notice, the university sought the cooperation of all students staying in Residence 2, which comprises blocks 5, 6, 7 and 8, to vacate their rooms no later than 11am on Monday.
Prince George’s Park Residences caters to both undergraduate and graduate students.
Residents, mostly foreign students, had to ensure that all their belongings were cleared out of the rooms, as anything found left behind after the deadline will be removed by the management.
ST understands that they are allocated rooms in other blocks, but within Prince George’s Park Residences.
When ST visited the student housing estate early on Monday morning, students were seen moving out of their rooms.
One undergraduate from China, who is in his second year at NUS and stayed at block 6 for the past five months, said the decision to convert their campus housing into quarantine facilities overnight was sudden.
“For foreign students, this is like our home. We’ve already settled in, but they expected us to pack everything at short notice and move to the next block,” said the 20-year-old who, like the others interviewed by ST, declined to give his name.
One Malaysian undergraduate, who is in his second year at NUS and previously stayed at block 6 for the past six months, said residents received an e-mail about the eviction around 2pm on Sunday.
“Many of us were shocked because when we moved in, we were not informed of the possibility that our blocks would be turned into a quarantine site,” he said, adding that some students are still away for the long Chinese New Year weekend.
These facilities will be thoroughly cleaned. Some cleaners interviewed told ST that they were called back on the third day of Chinese New Year, to clean the rooms.
In the letter to affected students, Mr Sng Jin Soon, director of the university’s Office of Housing Services, said: “Your swift cooperation and understanding will afford the Prince George’s Park Residences team sufficient time to carry out cleaning/sterilisation of the room before letting the person under quarantine to move in.”
He added that "alternative room arrangements will be made during this period to facilitate your move to your new accommodation", noting that these arrangements may not be similar to what they had previously, such as moving into non-air conditioned rooms.
The university said its management office will be in touch with residents to follow-up on any adjustment of hostel fees when the quarantine situation stabilised. It apologised for the short notice and sought the residents’ understanding as it manages the matter.
Over at NTU, residents at Graduate Hall 1 were requested to vacate by 3pm on Monday.
A notice seen by ST stated that they will be reallocated rooms at other halls of residence. Those who are not contactable by 1pm would have their personal items moved to their allocated rooms by the university.
Hall officers will follow up with the affected residents on the move to their new accommodation, including any adjustment in hostel fees.
Residents were also advised that their new rooms would not be similar to their current ones, according to the letter.