Wuhan virus: 524 people now under quarantine in Singapore

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

SINGAPORE — As of Sunday night (2 February), some 524 individuals are currently under quarantine in Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs) and at home, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday.

Giving Parliament an update on the government’s response to the spread of the Wuhan novel coronavirus, Wong said that 222 people are being housed in GQFs, while the remaining 302 are serving quarantine at home. These individuals are required to stay in their designated location at all times during the quarantine period and cannot physically interact with others living in the same premises.

Persons who do not have a suitable residence for quarantine are housed in GQFs.

For those quarantined at home, Wong said, “We will use video calls, phone calls and regular spot checks to ensure that they remain in their assigned quarantine location.” There are “severe penalties” for those who do not comply with a Quarantine Order, including fines or jail terms.

Those with a recent travel history to China have also been asked to take a 14-day Leave of Absence (LOA) at home. They are expected to, among other things, minimise time spent in public places and contact with others, and monitor their health and temperature daily.

As of 2pm on Monday, there are 18 confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus in Singapore, all with recent travel history to Hubei province. 16 are Chinese nationals and the other two are Singaporeans. There are another 43 suspect cases, for whom test results are pending.

Close contacts of the confirmed cases are now on quarantine, alongside those who travelled to Hubei recently and are deemed at higher risk of contracting the disease.

Some Singaporeans’ ‘irresponsible actions’

Wong, who co-chairs a Multi-Ministry Taskforce on the Wuhan virus, also decried the “irresponsible actions” of some Singaporeans. He noted that some residents, upon learning that there are individuals under home quarantine or LOA in the same apartment block, have asked that those people be moved elsewhere. There have also been reports of landlords “stigmatising” tenants based on their nationality, or evicting PRC tenants who are taking their LOA, as well as “anti-PRC” sentiment both online and in the real world.

And while Wong appreciated the concern of Singaporeans for their wellbeing and that of their family members, he said such actions were “counterproductive” as they would make overall containment efforts much harder.

“In such difficult times, we should not let our fears overwhelm us and cause us to overreact,” said the minister. “We must not allow such fear to paralyse our society. We must never allow our prejudices and our fears to pull apart our society or foster greater division or suspicions.”

200,000 face mask packs distributed

The minister also revealed that since Saturday, more than 200,000 face mask packs – or 15 per cent of the total – have been distributed by the government. The decision to release masks directly from the national stockpile – built up over the years thanks to crises like the SARS epidemic – to the general public was taken thanks to a “rapid consumption rate” by the public, said Wong.

In the nine days up to 31 January, the authorities released more than 5 million masks to retailers. “All were snapped up in a matter of hours. But still there were people who were not able to get access to a mask,” said Wong, who added that there is now a “global scramble” for masks. Places like Taiwan have even banned the export of masks.

“Let me reiterate once again that there are sufficient supplies of masks in Singapore, as long as they are used responsibly,” noted Wong.

“But no stockpile is sufficient if we do not use the supplies judiciously.”

For the latest on the Wuhan virus crisis, head to sg.news.yahoo.com/health

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