The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has implemented new measures, including temperature-taking and staggering meal times in camps, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Cleaning and disinfection schedules for SAF-chartered buses and ferries have been stepped up. Non-essential social activities such as cohesion events have also been deferred.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, after a visit to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) yesterday, said that while the SAF's mission is to defend Singapore whether or not there is a virus, necessary steps must be taken to safeguard the health of its soldiers.
"And this is exactly what we are doing to make sure that both are top priorities as we continue with our training and as we look after the health of our soldiers," he said.
He was speaking to reporters after observing some of the new measures which were put in place after Singapore moved its disease outbreak response up one level to "orange" last Friday.
Under the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition, "orange" means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact, though the situation is still under control. It is one step below "red", which signifies an out-of-control pandemic.
Asked about the plans in place if there should be a suspected or confirmed case of the coronavirus in an SAF camp, Mr Heng said that person would be sent to the medical centre for assessment, while contact tracing and isolation of close contacts would be done.
"The standards at our medical centres and their procedures are exactly the same as those that are adopted by the MOH (Ministry of Health). If the doctor here feels that the patient fits the criteria and needs to be referred to the NCID, then that would be done," he said, referring to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
He added that there were currently no plans to cancel in-camp training for operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).
"However, we have also instituted measures such as... reminding people that if they are sick they should let it be known so that we can then ask them not to undertake IPPT, for example. It can be rescheduled so that in the meantime you can seek treatment," he said.
Some NSmen received a text message yesterday saying the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) at Fitness Conditioning Centres had been cancelled until Feb 29, and those affected would be informed via SMS. But anyone taking the IPPT during in-camp training would not be affected, the message said.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (Feb 13), the Ministry of Defence said that IPPT, IPPT preparatory training (IPT) and remedial training at Fitness Conditioning Centres, Safra gyms and IPT-in-the-Park locations will be suspended until the end of February.
"This is to minimise the close congregation of large numbers of NSmen at these locations solely for the conduct of physical activities, as the facilities can get very crowded during these sessions," said the ministry.
NSmen who have scheduled these activities in February will be informed via SMS, it said, adding that those whose IPPT windows will end in February can reach out to their unit for assistance.
Since last Friday, the temperatures of visitors to SAF camps have been taken. All are also required to fill in an online form, which includes questions on visits to China in the last 14 days.
At the cookhouse in BMTC yesterday, reporters saw how hand-washing before meals has been made mandatory.
Meal times have also been staggered such that only two companies will eat at the cookhouse at one time. The cookhouse can accommodate four to five companies.
The number of guests recruits can invite to their BMTC graduation parade and to direct enlistment, during which parents can tour SAF camps and interact with commanders, might also be reduced.
Second Lieutenant Frederick Tang, 22, who is a platoon commander at BMTC, said bleach has been given to recruits so that they can clean their bunks and common areas more thoroughly.
"We encourage the recruits to sound off whenever they are feeling unwell. Any of them who display any symptoms will be separated from the others and brought to the medical centre to be assessed."