SINGAPORE – A second group of Singaporeans and their family members are expected to arrive in Singapore from Wuhan, Hubei, tomorrow morning (9 February).
In a statement released to the media on Saturday evening, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that the Chinese authorities “have acceded to the request” by the ministry to bring another group of citizens and residents home. Appropriate quarantine arrangements have been made for when the group lands.
To bring the group back, Scoot flight TR5120 departed from Singapore on Saturday afternoon with humanitarian assistance from the Singapore government. These include “medical supplies and diagnostic test kits for the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) to help the communities severely affected by the outbreak in China”, the MFA said.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan handed over Singapore’s humanitarian assistance to the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China Hong Xiaoyong at Changi Airport before the flight took off.
The minister spoke to the media after the handover. He thanked the Chinese government, whom he said have been working very closely with Singapore to facilitate the return of Singaporeans from Wuhan back home. “You know, today is chap goh mei, which is another traditional evening for family reunion. So, for us to be able to launch this flight to bring our Singaporeans back on this day is extra special,” he said.
He also thanked “the airline crew, the pilots and the cabin crew for continuing to fly”. “We are maintaining links between Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, and the fact that these links are available for essential services is a very important point, especially in a time of crisis,” the minister said.
He also reflected on the “scientific collaboration” during this time. “This coronavirus really started expanding in December. But by mid-January, the genome was already published by the scientists in China and made available worldwide,” Balakrishnan said. “This, in turn, has allowed, for instance, our own A*STAR research institute to develop a test kit which helps to identify specifically this particular virus. It is worth reflecting that now, today, barely three months after this epidemic has occurred, we have test kits available because of this effective scientific collaboration.”
Some 10,000 of such test kits were included in the flight to Wuhan.
“This illustrates the importance of having effective scientific, political and operational collaboration. That is the only way we are going to overcome this,” he said. “Each country, domestically, has to have an effective programme. But equally important, we need to work effectively across boundaries in order to solve this epidemic situation.”
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