S'poreans advised to review March school holiday plans amid Covid-19 outbreak

The Health Ministry has advised Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Italy, France, Spain and Germany. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans who have made plans to travel during the upcoming March school holidays are advised to review their plans, the Ministry of Health said on Friday (March 13).

The holidays begin on Saturday and end on March 22.

Singaporeans are also advised to be cautious when travelling to countries affected by the Covid-19 disease, especially those which have exported cases, said the ministry in a press statement.

This includes neighbouring countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as countries farther afield, like the United Kingdom.

At a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chairs of a task force to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, noted that the number of cases are growing globally and the number of imported cases here has increased in recent days.

All travellers will be subject to the prevailing travel measures imposed by their destination countries and those imposed by Singapore upon their return home, the MOH said.

In response to questions on the possibility of school closures, Mr Wong said that it is a decision that has to be guided by evidence and data. He said the rate of infection among children is very low, and that unusually, children appear to be less affected by the coronavirus compared to the influenza virus.

"What is not clear is whether it's fewer because their symptoms are so mild that we are not picking this up, or whether it's because somehow this (coronavirus) is different from the normal influenza and the children are not as prone to be infected for some reason which we don't quite understand yet," said Mr Wong.

Mr Wong added that if children are in fact infected, but with mild symptoms, they may infect people who are more vulnerable like their parents and grandparents.

"If it's the second scenario, then school closures are really not the right measure to put in place because they are not infected." Mr Wong said the Government will not rule out school closures.

"But we do need to get better clarity on the effectiveness of school closures and how this could potentially help to break or slow down the transmission chain before we decide on putting in place a measure like that," he added.

The Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak noted that other countries which have closed schools, such as China, have also done it in tandem with other social separation strategies.

He said that it is not quite clear at this point in time whether improvements in handling the outbreak is due to the school closures or other social separation strategies.

"Therefore we are a little bit more cautious about making a decision of when or whether we should close schools," said Prof Mak.

As Singapore's measures will evolve according to the global situation, Singaporeans should check for the latest measures on the Health Ministry's website.

The ministry has advised Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Italy, France, Spain and Germany, as the four countries have had very high numbers of cases and very high rates of increase.

Border restrictions against new visitors with recent travel to the four countries within the last 14 days will be imposed from 11.59pm on Sunday. They will not be allowed entry into Singapore or transit here.

Residents and long-term pass holders with travel history to the four countries in the last 14 days will be issued Stay-Home Notices.

The existing travel advisories and border restrictions announced previously still stand. Singaporeans are advised to defer all travel to Hubei province in mainland China and non-essential travel to the rest of mainland China, Iran, Japan and South Korea.

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Countries or regions with known and potential exported cases

• Mainland China*

• Egypt

• France*

• Germany*

• Hong Kong

• India

• Italy*

• Indonesia*

• Iran

• Israel

• Japan*

• Malaysia*

• Philippines*

• South Korea

• Spain

• Thailand

• United Kingdom*

• United States*

* These places have exported cases to Singapore

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