Singapore to bar visitors with recent travel history to China

ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, who visited staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases yesterday, accompanied by its executive director Leo Yee Sin (in white, on his right).ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

More steps to curb new imported cases as WHO declares public health emergency

All new visitors who have been in mainland China within the past 14 days will be barred from entry or transit in Singapore, as the nation ramps up measures to keep the Wuhan virus at bay. The new measures will kick in at 11.59pm today.

Also, the immigration authorities have suspended issuing new visas to Singapore - as well as transit passage through it - to those with China passports, with immediate effect. But Chinese passport holders who can show they have not been to China recently may be allowed entry, on a case-by-case basis.

Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term-pass holders returning from China will be placed on a leave of absence of 14 days, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

"On top of all that we have already introduced over the past few days, (this) will enable us to limit the number of new imported cases here and to reduce risk of community spread in Singapore," he said at a news conference yesterday.

"The situation remains fluid, it is constantly changing, and we do not rule out taking further measures," added Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the spread of the Wuhan virus here.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it would reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from mainland China until further notice. Renewal applications for existing work pass holders will not be affected.

The tough new measures come on the heels of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) announcement on Thursday that the coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

The virus has infected more than 9,000 people - surpassing the over 8,000 infections at the time of Sars. The novel coronavirus has killed over 200, with China's Wuhan city at the epicentre of the crisis.

The WHO believes that it is still possible to interrupt the spread of the virus, provided countries put in place strong preparedness and response measures, and there has been increased action worldwide to limit global spread by restricting the entry of possible contacts and cases into other countries.

There is no community spread of the virus within Singapore, Mr Wong stressed, and the authorities are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of this happening. Limiting the number of new imported cases here is a key part of this effort.

As of yesterday, 16 people had tested positive for the virus in Singapore. Fifteen were Chinese nationals from Wuhan, while one was a Singaporean who was evacuated from Wuhan on Thursday.

 
 
 

The authorities will suspend issuing visas to those with China passports with immediate effect.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers will also check the travel history of travellers to ensure that they have not been in China in the past 14 days. If they have, they will not be allowed entry.

Mr Wong emphasised that the policy had nothing to do with nationality. "It is not a nationality intent. The intent is with a view towards the virus outbreak in China itself, the risk that emanates from there and from any travellers who have recent travel history in China," he said.

The authorities acknowledged that the measures will have an impact on businesses and workers.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said last night that he will announce details to help those affected in the Budget statement on Feb 18. He will also share this weekend an outline of some of the key measures being planned.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore to bar visitors with recent travel history to China'. Print Edition | Subscribe