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To further reduce the risk of importation of COVID-19, the Singapore government has implemented additional precautionary measures. These include travel advisories against all non-essential travel abroad and more restrictions on travellers coming into Singapore.
According to a press release by the Ministry of Health, (MOH), from 16 March 2020, 11.59 pm, all travellers (including Singapore Residents, Long Term Pass holders, and short-term visitors) entering Singapore with recent travel history to ASEAN* countries, Japan, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom within the last 14 days will be issued with a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN). These individuals will have to provide proof of the place where they will serve the 14-day SHN. They may also be swabbed for testing for COVID-19, even if asymptomatic.
* Note: The ASEAN countries besides Singapore are: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam.
Additionally, from 16 March 2020, 11.59 pm, all short-term visitors who are nationals of any ASEAN country will have to submit requisite information on their health to the Singapore Overseas Mission in the country they are resident before their intended date of travel. They will have to obtain approval by the MOH before travelling to Singapore and the approval will be verified by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers at the Singapore checkpoints. Those without the necessary approval will be denied entry into Singapore.
With immediate effect, Singaporeans are advised to defer all non-essential travel abroad. This advisory will apply for 30 days, and will be reviewed thereafter. This is to reduce the risk of Singaporeans contracting COVID-19 infection while overseas during this global pandemic.
Work pass holders and dependants to obtain approval before entering/returning to Singapore
In line with the new restrictions, the Ministry of Manpower has announced that work pass holders (including dependants) with travel history to the abovementioned countries within the last 14 days and planning to enter/return to Singapore, must obtain MOM’s approval before commencing their journey.
Additionally, upon arrival in Singapore, all affected work pass holders will be placed on a mandatory 14-day SHN.
This applies to:
- All work pass holders regardless of nationality.
- Existing work pass holders currently out of Singapore
- In-Principle Approval holders who have yet to enter Singapore
What employers of affected work pass holders should note
Employers are required to apply for entry approval using this online facility.
Employers should inform their affected employees (including their dependents) not to make travel plans to Singapore until approval has been received from MOM. The employers will be required to send the MOM approval letter to the employees who will need to show it to the airline staff upon check-in and at the ICA checkpoint upon arrival in Singapore.
The entry approval requirement for work pass holders (including dependants) with travel history to mainland China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days, remains unchanged.
Employers and work pass holders have a joint duty to ensure that the SHN is complied with.
Work pass holders who have been put on an SHN should:
- Not leave their place of residence for the duration of the SHN, even if it is to purchase food and essentials.
- Monitor their health closely and seek medical attention immediately if they develop any fever or symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath.
- Observe good personal hygiene.
- Make their own arrangements to procure their daily necessities, such as meals and daily essentials.
Employers are responsible for ensuring:
- Their work pass holders on SHN can obtain meals and other daily essentials.
- If the work pass holder is unable to make his own arrangements, the employer will have to make the necessary arrangements.
If support from employers is not forthcoming, work pass holders should report their difficulties to MOM.
MOM will not hesitate to take enforcement measures against errant employers or employees who do not comply with the requirements set out above, including the revocation of work passes and withdrawal of work pass privileges.
MOM provides support for businesses and self-employed individuals affected by SHN
Since 18 February 2020, 11.59 pm, the MOM extended the Leave of Absence Support Programme (LOASP) to businesses and self-employed individuals affected by the SHN requirements due to COVID-19.
Under the LOASP, eligible employers will be able to apply for $100 daily per affected worker for the required duration of SHN.
Eligible employers will also qualify for levy waiver for affected foreign workers for the SHN period.
Businesses and self-employed Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents will be eligible for the LOASP if work was not performed remotely by affected persons or workers on SHN, and if they were placed on LOA or SHN upon their return to Singapore after:
- Travelling to mainland China on or before 31 January 2020; or
- Travelling to Daegu city or Cheongdo county in South Korea on or before 26 Feb 2020; or
- Travelling to South Korea, Northern Italy2, or Iran before 4 March 2020; or
- Travelling to Italy, Spain, France or Germany on or before 15 March 2020; or
- Travelling to ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom on or before 16 March 2020.
Entry approval and SHN also applies to foreign domestic workers (FDWs)
With effect from 16 March 2020, 11.59 pm, all employers and employment agencies (EAs) planning for their FDWs to enter Singapore will have to obtain MOM’s approval before they commence their journey.
This applies to all new FDWs (i.e. in-principle approval holders) and returning FDWs travelling to Singapore from any country.
Upon arrival in Singapore, FDWs will be placed on a mandatory 14-day SHN. All new incoming FDWs must serve their SHN at an alternative accommodation (dormitories, hostels or hotels) before they can be deployed for employment. For FDWs returning from overseas, their employers can arrange for them to serve the SHN in the employer’s residential address, or alternative accommodation.
Employers and EAs can apply for the entry approval online. Employers of direct-hire FDWs or employers of FDWs returning from overseas may also engage the services of an EA to assist in the entry approval and SHN arrangements.
The party applying for the entry approval will be responsible for:
- Ensuring that the FDW complies with the SHN.
- Ensuring proper housing and upkeep arrangements for the FDW to serve the SHN without leaving the SHN accommodation.
- Ensuring that FDW has access to a local mobile phone and remains contactable for compliance checks by MOM during the SHN period.
The party requesting for the entry approval should inform the FDWs not to make travel plans to Singapore until approval has been obtained.
The EAs or employers will be required to send the MOM approval letter to the FDWs, who will need to show it to the airline staff during check-in and at the ICA checkpoint upon arrival in Singapore.
EAs, employers and their FDWs have a collective duty to ensure that the entry approval and the SHN requirements are complied with. Enforcement action, including revocation of work passes and suspension of work pass privileges, will be taken if the requirements are not complied with.
Demerit points will also be imposed on EAs whose actions result in violation of the requirements by the FDWs.
Assistance package for FDW employers affected by SHN requirements
MOM will provide an assistance package to support employers (Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents) who are affected by the SHN requirements.
Employers can apply for $60 support daily per affected FDW and have their levy waived during the SHN period.
Employers will be eligible for the assistance package if:
- The FDW does not serve her SHN at the employers’ registered residential address (i.e. if they serve their SHN at an alternative accommodation such as dormitories, hostels or hotels).
- The FDW’s work pass application is submitted to MOM on or before 15 March 2020; or
- The FDW has a valid work pass and left Singapore on or before 15 March 2020.
Employers can apply for the assistance and levy waiver within 90 days after the FDW has completed her SHN. More details on the application process will be provided at a later date.
Additional advisory: FDW rest day arrangements and home leave
Building on previous recommendations, MOM strongly encourages FDWs to spend their rest day at home during this period.
Employers should discuss with their FDWs and reach a mutual agreement on rest day arrangements:
- If FDWs agree to spend their rest day at home, employers should not assign work to them on the rest day.
- If FDWs agree to forgo their rest days, employers must provide compensation in lieu of the rest day.
- If FDWs have errands to attend to on their rest day, they should be encouraged to take their rest day on a weekday, when public spaces are less crowded.
- Employers should also encourage their FDWs not to gather in public areas.
For FDWs who have plans to travel back home, we advise that employers and FDWs discuss and come to a mutual agreement for the FDWs to postpone their home leave until the situation stabilises.
Employers should inform their FDWs that based on current guidelines, they will be required to serve the SHN upon their return to Singapore. Employers should also inform their FDWs that the employer may not be obligated to pay for accommodation costs should the FDW serve the SHN in an alternative accommodation upon their return.
Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to suspend all official overseas placements
In other related news, Ministry of Education (MOE), together with IHLs, have decided to suspend all official overseas placements, including all internships and exchange programmes, until end-July. Students who are currently on such overseas placements will be recalled as soon as is practicable.
The slew of new measures come on the back of the global spread of the virus. Globally, there are now more than 150,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 5,000 deaths across 135 countries, and the numbers are increasing rapidly. There have been more than 25,000 new cases since as recently as 12 March (when the Multi-Ministry Taskforce last issued precautionary measures) and a majority of these cases were reported outside of China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that the epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, and there are now more cases reported outside of China daily than that reported in China at the height of its epidemic. The number of new cases imported into mainland China from overseas has also surpassed its number of locally transmitted new infections.
In the past three days alone, Singapore has seen an increase of 25 new cases. Of these, more than three-quarters were imported cases, of which close to 90% were Singapore Residents (Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents) and Singapore Long Term Pass holders who had returned to Singapore from overseas.
During the same period, more than one quarter of imported cases were from ASEAN countries. We have seen a number of these cases entering Singapore for the purpose of seeking medical care, which imposes a significant burden on Singapore’s healthcare resources during this critical period when we are focused on containing the situation within Singapore.
Photo / 123RF