Singapore to deny entry to new visitors with links to Hubei
Two new Wuhan virus infections confirmed here as cases in China shoot up to over 4,500
As two more people from Wuhan were confirmed to be infected with a deadly virus, Singapore yesterday moved to ban all new visitors with travel history to Hubei or hold passports issued in the Chinese province.
From noon today, all visitors who travelled to Hubei in the last 14 days or hold China passports issued in the province will be denied entry into or transit through Singapore.
The issue of new visas as well as previously issued short-term visas and multiple-visit visas has also been suspended for holders of passports issued in Hubei.
Singapore's latest stringent measures come as the death toll in China's coronavirus outbreak, of which Hubei's capital Wuhan is the epicentre, rose to 106 and the number of infections almost doubled in a day to more than 4,500.
The two latest cases bring Singapore's tally of infected patients to seven - all Chinese nationals from Wuhan.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said at a press briefing yesterday that with three cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, infections among Chinese nationals from Wuhan here is accelerating, in line with the spike in global infection rates.
As well, 95 per cent of confirmed cases in Chinese cities are linked to Hubei.
This poses a heightened risk to Singapore despite no evidence of community spread as yet, hence the need to limit the risk posed by Hubei travellers to Singapore, MOH said.
Apart from new visitors with Hubei links being denied entry, recent travellers from Hubei who are already in Singapore and returning residents of Singapore or long-term pass holders with travel history to Hubei or with China passports issued in Hubei are also affected by the new measures.
The ministry said it is in contact with about 2,000 individuals with Hubei travel history or Hubei-issued passports who are currently in Singapore.
About half of them are on short-term visas. Half are visitors and half are residents.
Those assessed to be at higher risk, such as having had contact with infected persons or visited hospitals in China recently, will be quarantined.
The second group - returning residents or long-term pass holders - will be quarantined on their return.
Quarantine orders have legal force, with severe penalties for non-compliance, MOH said.
Under the Infectious Diseases Act, anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from Hubei until further notice.
Renewal applications for existing Work Pass workers from Hubei will not be affected, MOM said in a statement last night.
Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong said that while the measures apply only to Hubei for now, "if the situation in China worsens, if it spreads outside of Hubei... then we will have to update our measures accordingly".
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force set up to counter the virus, added: "These are not ordinary times. This is a very fluid and rapidly evolving situation. The key is not what we do at any point in time, but how swiftly we adjust our plans and actions."
Of the new cases, one is a 56-year-old man who arrived here on Jan 19 and stayed with his family at Pasir Ris Grove.
After he developed a cough, he went to Changi General Hospital on Sunday, and tested positive for the virus the next day.
The second is a 35-year-old man who arrived here on Jan 23 and stayed at Marina Bay Sands.
After developing symptoms the next day, he went to Raffles Hospital and was transferred to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, where he tested positive on Monday.
All seven patients are in stable condition, said MOH.
In an update last night, the ministry said 91 suspect cases have tested negative, and test results for the remaining 72 cases are pending.
MOH has identified 160 close contacts from the seven confirmed cases.
Of the 130 still in Singapore, 116 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining 14 close contacts.