COVID-19: Singapore closes borders to all tourists, short-term visitors

SINGAPORE – In a further attempt to manage the heightened risk of importation of COVID-19 cases, all short-term visitors will be barred from entering or transiting via Singapore.

For work pass holders, only those involved in essential services such as healthcare and transport will be allowed to return to Singapore, said Minister of National Development and coronavirus multi-ministry taskforce co-chair Lawrence Wong at a media doorstop on Sunday (22 March).

The new measures will take effect from 11.59pm on Monday.

“These are significant moves, especially for a small, open economy like Singapore that has always been connected to the world,” said Wong. He added that the tighter border controls are also aimed at focusing the government’s resources on Singaporeans returning from overseas.

Previously, except for a handful of countries, short-term visitors were allowed to enter Singapore, with the condition that they serve a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN).

Currently, resources are being expended to serve and enforce SHNs on short-term visitors. And if they fall ill, they will also need medical treatment, said Wong.

Despite border restrictions, some 533 short-term visitors arrived in Singapore on Saturday alone.

“I can understand, Singapore is attractive and people want to be here... but for every visitor that comes through, for every work pass holder that comes through, they take up resources,” said Wong.

“During this time, we need to focus our resources on returning Singaporeans because they are coming back in large numbers,” he added.

Almost 80 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Singapore over the past three days (from noon on 21 March) were imported, with most of them Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning home.

In total, these imported cases had travel histories to 22 countries.

Limited entry for work pass holders

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also be tightening the entry requirements for work pass holders.

It will allow the entry or return of work pass holders, including their dependants, who are providing essential services, such as those in healthcare and transport.

“We allow only those who are critically needed to come back,” Wong said.

Currently, all work pass holders and their dependents planning to enter Singapore from any country are already required to obtain MOM’s approval before beginning their journey.

There is currently no end-date to these measures.

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