Coronavirus: Those returning from UK, US to be isolated at dedicated facilities

From 11.59pm today, returnees will serve 14-day stay-home notice in specified hotels

A passenger (centre) is immediately given a pair of latex gloves to wear upon arrival at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on March 24, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Singapore residents returning from the United Kingdom and the United States from 11.59pm today will serve their 14-day stay-home notice in dedicated facilities instead of their own homes, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday, as it further enhanced measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid a wave of imported cases.

MOH said those returning from the two countries will be picked up from the airport and sent directly to one of these facilities. The ministry is working with hotel operators to house the returnees. They will each have their own room and toilet, and have all their meals provided, so that they may avoid physical contact with other individuals.

"For Singaporean parents whose children are coming back after Wednesday, there is no need to go to the airport to fetch them. We will arrange transport for them to serve out their 14-day isolation requirements," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters at a news conference yesterday.

"We do expect more Singaporeans and Singapore residents to come home from these countries, especially given the lockdown in these countries," Mr Wong added. "So far, none has gone on to infect their family members. But family members are still worried; there is always a risk that infection can happen to someone in close proximity."

Those who have already returned from the US and UK and are currently serving their stay-home notice in their homes may also apply to stay in these dedicated facilities.

MOH noted that those coming in from the UK and US account for the largest share of imported cases. About 1,200 people a day have been returning from these two countries. The Government had earlier banned all short-term visitors from entering or transiting through Singapore.

Singapore residents who return with symptoms must undergo a swab test at the checkpoint.

On whether returnees should wait around the facility for the test results or return home, MOH director of medical services Kenneth Mak said: "We advise people who have been swab-tested to go home - and while they are waiting for the test results, to isolate themselves and not go into crowded areas and engage in a lot of travel outside their home.

"We think it is more prudent... When we notify them of the results, we will inform them whether we need them to be recalled. We will provide them with the ambulance that brings them into the hospital for further treatment."

In a separate announcement, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced it would be placing pupils living in the same household as someone returning from overseas on a 14-day leave of absence (LOA).

This applies to pre-school and primary school pupils who are in the same household as anyone who returns to Singapore from 11.59pm today, or anyone who returned from an Asean country, the UK or the US on or after March 14. The pupil's LOA will start from the day the person in the household returned here.

The ministries said these measures will be implemented to protect younger school-going children. The new measures are on top of the 14-day LOA issued to students and staff of schools, pre-schools and student care centres if they returned from overseas on or after March 14.

To accommodate these exceptional circumstances, MOE and MSF encouraged employers to provide flexible work arrangements for employees.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Those returning from UK, US to be isolated at dedicated facilities. Subscribe