Coronavirus: Work-pass holders with symptoms entering Singapore may have to take swab test at checkpoints

Temperature screening stations at Tuas Checkpoint. Swab tests at checkpoints will kick in from 11.59pm on March 4, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - All work-pass holders and dependants entering Singapore who have fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness may be required to undergo an immediate swab test for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, at checkpoints.

But those who meet the Ministry of Health's clinical suspect case definition will be taken directly to the hospital.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) also said in a statement on Tuesday (March 3) that all work-pass holders and their dependants who have travelled to South Korea, northern Italy or Iran in the past two weeks will need the approval of the ministry to begin their return to the country.

The swab tests at checkpoints and entry approval requirement will kick in from 11.59pm on Wednesday (March 4), said MOM.

This comes after an announcement earlier in the day by the Government to not allow travellers who have been to these areas in the last 14 days to enter or transit through Singapore.

The expanded entry measures were announced by MOM due to "a surge in the number of confirmed cases around the world", including more than 5,100 confirmed cases and 29 deaths in South Korea.

The ministry said employers and work-pass holders have a joint duty to make sure the Covid-19 regulations, including existing stay-home requirements, are followed.

Referring to the increase in the number of countries affected by the entry approval requirements, MOM said the latest measures are similar to previous entry requirements for work-pass holders and their dependants who had travelled to Daegu city and Cheongdo county in South Korea, as well as China.

The measures apply to existing work-pass holders, regardless of nationality, as well as to workers who have had their work passes approved in-principle but have yet to enter Singapore.

Employers are required to apply for entry approval for their workers online, MOM said, and should also inform their affected employees and their dependants not to make travel plans to Singapore until approval has been given.

MOM added that a letter will be given to the employers after approval has been granted, which the employers should then forward to the affected employees so they can show airline staff upon checking in for flights and at checkpoints in Singapore.

Upon arrival in Singapore, all affected work-pass holders will be placed on a mandatory 14-day stay-home notice, with the count beginning on the day after they land in Singapore.

On the swab tests for work-pass holders and their dependants who show symptoms upon entering the country, MOM said those who have taken the test will be allowed to carry on with their journeys as results may take between three and six hours.

But they are advised to minimise contact with others as a precautionary measure, the ministry said.

Those whose results come back positive will be taken to hospital in specialised ambulances.

"Work-pass holders, including dependants, who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities and work-pass privileges revoked or the validity shortened," warned MOM.

"Those who do not comply with the testing or who cannot be contacted subsequently may face penalties and can be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act."

On Feb 28, a couple from China became the first to be charged under the Infectious Diseases Act over giving false information to Ministry of Health officials, which obstructed the process of contact tracing.

On making sure stay-home notice requirements are followed, MOM added that it will not hesitate to take enforcement measures against errant employers or employees who do not comply with the requirements set out, including revoking work passes and withdrawing work-pass privileges.

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