With an additional two more cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Singapore, the government has implemented additional measures to contain the spread of the Wuhan virus including rejecting work pass applications from Hubei, denying entry or transit for Chinese nationals with a Hubei passport, and providing a S$100 quarantine allowance.
With immediate effect, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from Hubei until further notice. As of yesterday, more than 30 new applications have been rejected. According to a press release, renewal applications for existing Work Pass workers from Hubei will not be affected.
In a press release by Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH), further steps taken by the multi-ministry taskforce on the Wuhan coronavirus to limit the risk that travellers to Hubei pose to Singapore, including:
A temporary ban on new visitors with travel history in Hubei or with PRC passports issued in Hubei
From 12pm today (29 January 2020), all new visitors with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days, or those with PRC passports issued in Hubei, will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will also suspend the issuance of all forms of new visas to those with PRC passports issued in Hubei with immediate effect.
Additionally, previously issued short-term and multiple-visit visas, as well as visa-free transit facilities, for those with PRC passports issued in Hubei will be suspended with immediate effect. During the period of suspension, they will not be allowed entry into Singapore.
Quarantine for high-risk recent travellers from Hubei who are already in Singapore
The MOH is contacting all recent travellers from Hubei province who are in Singapore. There are an estimated of 2,000 such people who have arrived in the last two weeks, of whom roughly 1,000 are on short-term visas.
The MOH will assess who among this group are at higher risk and place them under quarantine. According to a Facebook post by Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and co-chair of a multi-ministry taskforce, the higher risk ones are those who arrived more recently and are still within the incubation period.
Singapore citizens, permanent residents (PR), and foreigners on long-term visas will be quarantined at home or other suitable facilities. While those on short-term visas will be housed at Government Quarantine Facilities.
Quarantine orders have legal force, with severe penalties for non-compliance - a maximum fine of S$10,000 and up to six months in jail.
Speaking to reporters after a media briefing yesterday (28 Jan 2020), Wong said that Singaporeans and PRs who are quarantined will receive S$100 a day, CNA reported.
The allowance will be given to the employer for those who are working, while it will be given to the individual if they are self-employed, Wong added.
In a Facebook post late last night, he said that the quarantine allowance is not new, adding that it will not be given to tourists who are quarantined.
Existing work pass holders from Hubei or with recent Hubei travel history to defer their return to Singapore
Existing work pass holders from Hubei who are currently away or with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days are advised to defer their return to Singapore.
The MOM noted that it expects employers to be responsible and ask these employees to defer their return until the situation stabilises.
While employees with valid work passes will still be allowed to enter Singapore, they will be quarantined at home or other suitable facilities upon returning. Employers should inform these employees that they will be quarantined if they choose to return to Singapore.
Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei Province and all non-essential travel to Mainland China
In a separate press release, MOH has also advised Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei Province and all non-essential travel to Mainland China.
Travellers are advised to monitor their health closely for two weeks upon return to Singapore and seek medical attention promptly if they feel unwell. Travellers should inform their doctor of their travel history. If they have a fever or respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath), they should wear a mask and call the clinic ahead of the visit.
Employers taking proactive measures
In the meantime, some employers are taking proactive measures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore. For example, business advisory WageWorth has informed its business contacts that its management and staff members will only be available for e-meetings and e-appointments for the next two months, or until further notice.
"All e-appointments will be held on preferred/available digital modes/platforms such as: WhatsApp / WeChat / Skype / etc. This is to minimise physical contact and exposure. Most importantly to safeguard the welfare of all parties," as shared on the email received by Human Resources Online.
Singaporeans advised to remain calm and be socially responsible
As of yesterday (28 January 2020), there is no evidence of community spread in Singapore, the MOH noted.
However, with international evidence of growing infection among Hubei residents and those who have visited the province. The further precautions have been taken to reduce the risk of community spread in Singapore.
The taskforce will continue to monitor the situation and take further steps as needed, depending on how the situation develops.
Meanwhile, the MOH urges Singaporeans to be socially responsible and practise good personal hygiene habits and remain calm.
According to MOH, the public should adopt the following precautions at all times:
- Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds, and consumption of raw and undercooked meats;
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness;
- Observe good personal hygiene;
- Practise frequent hand washing with soap (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing);
- Wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath;
- Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately; and
- Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.
The public is also urged to be wary of falsehoods and refer to official sources to get the latest updates on the situation.
Yesterday (28 January 2020), the MOH stepped up to clarify that news of Woodlands MRT being closed for disinfection due to a suspected case of the Wuhan coronavirus infection is untrue. The MRT station was fully operational.
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