Singapore, KL join hands on several fronts to tackle virus spread

Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min during a visit to PSA Singapore at Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3 on Feb 12, 2020.
Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min during a visit to PSA Singapore at Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3 on Feb 12, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Singapore and Malaysia are looking into establishing protocols for the transfer of infected patients between the two countries as part of efforts to work more closely in tackling the spread of the coronavirus.

Other areas of cooperation include the sharing of information to help with contact tracing of confirmed cases as well as temperature screening at the borders, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min said yesterday.

He is co-chairman of a new Singapore-Malaysia joint working group tasked with boosting cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus.

Speaking after a visit to PSA Singapore's Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3, he said representatives of both countries will have further discussions on implementing temperature surveillance at the border.

Singapore currently conducts temperature screening for travellers entering Singapore from Malaysia. Dr Lam said the authorities are looking into whether it should be carried out on travellers leaving Singapore for Malaysia as well. "We don't want to duplicate the efforts. If both countries can work together, we can make it more seamless for travellers," he said, adding that the details will be worked out after discussions with Malaysian representatives.

In addition to Ministry of Health personnel, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers will likely be roped in to carry out the cooperative measures, he said.

The working group was announced on Tuesday after Singapore's Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and his Malaysian counterpart Dzulkefly Ahmad had a video conference meeting. The ministers agreed that it was important for both countries to continue working closely together on the outbreak, especially given the high volume of travel between both sides.

About 415,000 travellers use the land checkpoints daily.

During his visit to Pasir Panjang, Dr Lam was briefed on the precautionary measures taken by the port operator, which include requiring crews on board container vessels that had departed from any Chinese port in the last 14 days to not disembark at Singapore's port.

Crews on other vessels are discouraged from disembarking. PSA personnel will help to take their temperature at the vessel gangway if they want to disembark.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said: "The general philosophy is that we take precautions for these crews, but goods and operations continue as usual."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore, KL join hands on several fronts to tackle virus spread'. Print Edition | Subscribe