Wuhan virus: Singapore to bar new visitors with travel history to Hubei in last 14 days

Wan Ting Koh
The travel ban also extends to those with Chinese passports issued in Hubei, said MOH during a media conference on Tuesday. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — All new visitors with recent travel history to Hubei within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore from Wednesday (29 January) 12 noon onwards, as part of new measures implemented by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday.

The travel ban also extends to those with Chinese passports issued in Hubei, said MOH during a media conference on Tuesday. For this group of travellers, there will be a suspension on issuance of all new visas, previously-issued short-term and multiple-visit visas, and visa-free transit facilities. The ban applies to land, sea and air travel.

At a media conference, representatives from the MOH and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority said they are working with airlines to inform passengers ahead of their flight to Singapore about the ban.

The passengers who are affected by the ban and arrive in Singapore will be turned away, with their visas suspended. They will then have to make their own arrangements to fly out of Singapore.

Affected passengers who give false or inaccurate information in their travel history may be subject to penalties under the Infectious Diseases Act. A person who is convicted under the Act could be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000.

MOH has already started contract tracing for recent travellers to Hubei who are already in Singapore. There are an estimated 2,000 of them, with about 1,000 on short-term visas. Should they be assessed to be of high risk, they will be quarantined.

Returning Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with travel history to Hubei in the last 14 days will be quarantined, as will returning permanent residents and long-term pass holders with Chinese passports issued in Hubei.

Workers who are quarantined will have a daily allowance of $100, to be given to their employers, while those who are self-employed will receive the allowance directly.

Those who violate a quarantine order could be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000 under the Act.

Speaking to the media after the conference, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, said that the move to restrict travellers from Hubei was not a “knee-jerk” reaction, saying that the authorities have studied the available evidence and risk.

“I think we have to make a decision and we have to move. And because this situation is evolving so rapidly... you never know how the situation can worsen,” said Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force set up to deal with Wuhan virus outbreak.

On Monday, Wong cautioned against overreaction and xenophobia in a media conference, where he said that there was no need for a complete ban on travellers from China.

Asked if the enhanced measure on new travellers from Hubei could be called a travel ban, Wong replied, “It is what it is...Why, because there is a risk and the risk is real.”

While the minister recognised that there was a possibility of travellers who were dishonest in their declarations, he said there were other measures to combat this.

There are medical teams deployed at the aero-bridges at the airport to pick up passengers who look unwell and there are thermal scanners in place. Immigration officers may also check the passport history of travellers and question visitors, he added.

Confirmed cases at 7 as of Tuesday

The new measures come as MOH confirmed another two cases of Wuhan virus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to seven in Singapore. All seven patients are in stable condition.

One is a 56-year-old male Chinese national from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore on 19 January and developed cough symptoms on 25 January. He checked into Changi General Hospital on 26 January and was tested positive for novel coronavirus infection on Monday.

Prior to his admission, he was staying with his family members in Pasir Ris Grove.

The other is a 35-year-old male Chinese national, also from Wuhan. He arrived in Singapore on 23 January and developed symptoms the next day. He checked into Raffles Hospital on the same day, and was tested positive on Monday.

Prior to his admission, he was staying at Marina Bay Sands.

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