Persons with pneumonia and have travelled to China to be isolated in S'pore

A worker in a protective suit is seen at the closed seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on 10 January, 2020. The seafood market is linked to the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE —Individuals with pneumonia and have travelled to China – not just Wuhan – within 14 days before the onset of symptoms will be isolated in hospital from Wednesday (22 January) onwards, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) as a new coronavirus originating from China has been confirmed to be contagious between humans.

Among its stepped up precautionary measures, the ministry said on Tuesday that individuals with acute respiratory infection who had been to any hospital in China within 14 days before the onset of symptoms will also be isolated in hospital.

These measures come a day after the MOH announced that all travellers arriving from China will have their temperatures screened from Wednesday. They would also be given health advisory notices, while posters will also be distributed at land and sea checkpoints.

While there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus reported in Singapore as of Tuesday, the ministry cautioned that more suspected cases, and possibly imported cases, are expected to emerge given the high volume of international travel to Singapore.

All seven suspected cases here have tested negative for the coronavirus strain.

“Once a case is confirmed, contact tracing will be initiated, and we will implement strict isolation, quarantine, and infection control and prevention measures to prevent further transmission,” the ministry reiterated.

Singaporeans who need to travel to the affected areas are advised to regularly check the MOH’s website.

The ministry’s announcement comes hours after Chinese authorities revealed that the death toll from the coronavirus has increased to six in Wuhan, with 270 cases confirmed in Hubei province, home to the city, by the end of Monday.

Separately, China's eastern Zhejiang provincial health authority said a total of five cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed on Tuesday. Other Chinese cities that have confirmed cases from the outbreak include Beijing and Shanghai.

On Tuesday, Australia and the Philippines saw their first suspected case of the virus while Taiwan confirmed its first case. Four other confirmed cases have been reported across South Korea, Thailand and Japan.

The new virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-2003 outbreak and also started in China.

Health precautions

Members of the public have been urged to remain vigilant and for travellers to Wuhan to monitor their health closely. The ministry also advised travellers and members of the public to 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 runny nose.

  • Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately.

  • Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell and inform your doctor about your travel history.

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