Coronavirus outbreak

Tourists, short-term visitors have to pay for treatment

Citing rising infections, MOH says S'pore must prioritise resources at public hospitals

Tourists wearing masks at Merlion Park, on Jan 28, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

Tourists and other short-term visit pass holders in Singapore have had to pay for Covid-19 treatment since last Saturday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.

It cited the rising numbers of infections globally and an expected rise in confirmed cases, saying Singapore will "need to prioritise resources at our public hospitals".

Singapore will still waive testing fees for short-term visit pass holders, but they have to pay for treatment if warded. The Government will continue to pay for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders - such as those on work, student's and dependant's passes - admitted to public hospitals for treatment, an MOH spokesman said yesterday.

The ministry also confirmed 10 new patients yesterday, of whom six are linked to the Joy Garden private dinner at Safra Jurong on Feb 15. One is linked to The Life Church and Missions Singapore, and the remaining three are imported.

Another three patients were discharged.

The Safra Jurong cluster is now the largest, with 36 cases. Case 160, a five-year-old Singaporean boy, is the youngest case linked to the dinner there. He is a family member of Case 145 and is warded at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. Cases 155 to 159, aged between 47 and 59, are also linked to the Safra cluster.

One of the imported cases announced yesterday, Case 152, is a 65-year-old male Indonesian national. He reported the onset of symptoms in Indonesia on Feb 28, and sought treatment at a hospital in Jakarta on March 2. He arrived in Singapore last Saturday and turned up at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Case 153 is likely to be an imported case. The 65-year-old female Singaporean was in Indonesia from Feb 25 to Feb 28, and visited her sister who had pneumonia while there. She reported the onset of symptoms on March 3 and sought treatment at Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic that day and last Saturday. She turned up at SGH last Saturday.

Another imported case, Case 154, is a 52-year-old British man who arrived in Singapore last Friday and was confirmed to have the infection yesterday. He is hospitalised at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). The MOH spokesman declined to identify the flight he was on.

Case 151, linked to The Life Church and Missions, was at a Jan 25 Chinese New Year gathering in Mei Hwan Drive. The 51-year-old Singaporean man reported the onset of symptoms on Feb 4, and visited a general practitioner clinic on Feb 5 and 13. He also sought treatment at Yishun Polyclinic on Feb 8 and 13. While he was ill, he mostly stayed at home in Yishun Ring Road.

He was referred to NCID to undergo a serology test on Feb 22 after he was confirmed to have attended the gathering, which has been linked to other cases. The results from the serological test, which looks for past infections by detecting antibodies in a person's blood, on Sunday confirmed that he had an earlier Covid-19 infection.

MOH also provided updates on the cases confirmed on Sunday. Among them was Case 147, Singapore's first case to be picked up at the checkpoints using a swab test. The 64-year-old Indonesian man reported the onset of symptoms on March 3 and arrived here four days later.

He had a fever when he arrived at Seletar Airport and did a swab test at the checkpoint. He was taken to NCID by ambulance on Saturday night and confirmed to have the infection on Sunday morning. Prior to hospitalisation, he mostly stayed at his rental apartment in the Oxley Road area. He will have to pay for medical treatment here, MOH said.

In a Facebook post, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said a test kit developed by Home Team agency HTX has been used to analyse Covid-19 swab test samples at land, air and sea checkpoints since last Thursday. It was used to detect the virus for Case 147.

Singapore has a total of 160 coronavirus cases, of whom 93 have been discharged. Ten remain in critical condition, while the rest are stable or improving.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2020, with the headline Tourists, short-term visitors have to pay for treatment. Subscribe