Key measures taken by Singapore Government to fight spread of Wuhan virus

A temperature screening station as seen at Tuas checkpoint on Jan 24, 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The Government on Monday (Jan 27) announced a slew of further measures to curb the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in the Republic.

Singapore has currently four confirmed cases - all tourists from Wuhan.

At a press conference chaired by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and attended by several fourth-generation ministers, these measures were announced:

1. Students and workers returning from China

Students and workers in certain sectors must abide by a compulsory 14-day leave of absence if they have returned from mainland China in the past 14 days.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said this applies to students and staff from MOE kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, special education schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education and Millennia Institute.

The leave of absence also applies to workers in the healthcare and eldercare sectors, given their patients' more vulnerable state and greater susceptibility to the virus.

This 14-day leave of absence is not no-pay leave and will not be deducted from workers' annual leave.

In addition, all businesses and schools should ensure employees and students make the appropriate health and travel declarations.

Those that have been to China should monitor their health and take their temperature twice a day for two weeks, the Government said on Monday.

2. Outbound travellers

All non-essential travel from Singapore to mainland China should be deferred, the Government said.

This adds to its previous advice that Singaporeans should avoid travelling to Hubei province where Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, is located.

3. Inbound travellers

By Wednesday, temperature screening will be expanded to cover travellers on all flights into Singapore, the Government said.

Previously, temperature screening was limited to travellers on planes from China.

Screenings at land and sea checkpoints will continue.

Inbound flights from mainland China will be given extra attention, with healthcare teams stationed nearby as passengers alight from these flights.

There will be signboards clearly displayed at the relevant aerobridges to channel travellers who feel unwell or who have recently been to Hubei to these healthcare teams.

This is to identify those who are ill so they can receive medical attention if necessary, the multi-ministry task force said.

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority will also pay special attention to those with passports issued in Hubei province.

The authority will collect their contact details for possible contact tracing later.

The temperature screening stations that have been set up at the Tuas Checkpoint. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

4. Businesses

As businesses brace themselves for the impact of the Wuhan virus on their profits, the Manpower Ministry has reached out to them to keep workplaces safe.

Employers should familiarise themselves with the latest advisories and stay updated, the ministry said.

They should also implement recommended measures and contact the ministry for advice if they have concerns or are unsure about what to do.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said tourism-related businesses - including travel agents, hospitality industries, the food and beverage sector, retailers and transport - are likely to take the biggest hits.

Measures to support these businesses will include helping them reduce business costs, easing cashflow problems and facilitating the retention of workers.

Similar measures were implemented in 2003 during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak.

5. Communications

Intensified efforts have also been made to provide Singaporeans with accurate and up-to-date information on the virus through various channels, in part to make sure they do not fall prey to circulating falsehoods.

These channels include the WhatsApp, which has seen more than 56,000 new subscribers since Sunday, as well as digital display panels in Housing Board estates.

On Sunday, Health Minister Gan also instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to correct an online post in the HardwareZone Forum that falsely claimed a man in Singapore had died from the Wuhan virus infection.

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6. Environment

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said his ministry will focus on cleaning protocols and the proper disinfection of premises after incidents.

It worked with MOH and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases to develop guidelines on the types of cleaning agents to use, the kind of surfaces that should be targeted and how often cleaning and disinfection should be done.

The ministry has also shared guidelines on personal protection measures that cleaners themselves should take, Mr Masagos said.

He added that Singapore has existing facilities and requirements on the handling and disposal of biohazard waste, which premise owners and cleaning companies must comply with.

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