Wuhan virus outbreak: MOH to expand temperature screening at Changi Airport to all flights from China

A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, on 20 January, 2020. (PHOTO: Reuters)
A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China, at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, on 20 January, 2020. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Monday (20 January) said that it will expand temperature screening at Changi Airport to include all travellers on flights arriving from China from Wednesday, as a new coronavirus originating from China spread to more cities and countries.

Individuals with pneumonia who had travelled to Wuhan within 14 days before the onset of symptoms will also be isolated in the hospital.

Such additional precautionary measures are in response to the spike in cases of the novel coronavirus and an anticipated increase in travel volume leading to the Chinese New Year holidays, said the ministry in a press statement.

Since 3 January, only travellers arriving on flights from Wuhan are screened for their temperatures with suspect cases referred to hospitals for further assessment. Advisory posters have also been placed at the airport.

The ministry added that it, together with the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) have developed a joint clinical guidance to advise on the management of suspect cases of the new coronavirus.

“The guidance has been disseminated to Emergency Department and Infectious Diseases physicians, and public sector hospital laboratories. The MOH has also issued a reminder on 20 January to hospitals and general practitioners to be vigilant for cases with pneumonia who have recently travelled to Wuhan,” said the MOH.

More cases not ruled out

To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported in Singapore, after investigating six suspected cases here. A seventh suspected case was admitted for further assessment and isolated as a precautionary measure on Monday.

“However, given that Singapore is a travel hub, we expect to see more suspect cases, and cannot rule out the possibility of imported cases, the ministry added.

“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’s announcement comes as Chinese authorities revealed earlier on Monday that 136 new cases of pneumonia caused by the coronavirus strain were found in Wuhan over the weekend, adding to 62 already known cases.

A third death occurred on Saturday, added Chinese authorities.

South Korea on the same day reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, a 35-year-old female Chinese national who had traveled from Wuhan, the fourth patient to be reported outside China. Last week, two cases were reported in Thailand and one in Japan. All three involved people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city.

According to Reuters, a report by London Imperial College's MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by 12 January there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan with the onset of related symptoms.

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 that 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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