SINGAPORE — Singapore’s economy will definitely be impacted by the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, with the tourism-related sectors being of immediate concern.
In a multi-ministry press conference on Monday (27 January), Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said that this includes travel agents, as well as the food and beverage, retail and hospitality sectors.
Like what happened during the 2003 SARS outbreak, mitigating measures can include “reducing business costs, alleviating cash flows and retention of workers”.
The government, he added, is ready to work with the industry. He said that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is in contact with the various trade associations and businesses to manage the impact.
“Our priority is to work closely with MOM and NTUC to mitigate the fallout and support our workers affected and preserve their livelihoods,” Chan said.
“For the longer term, we will press on with our industry and market diversifications to strengthen our resilience as an economic system.”
Other precautionary measures
At the same press conference, Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung also shared the ministry’s additional precautionary measures as schools reopen after the Chinese New Year beak. Students and teachers who have travelled to China recently will have to take a mandatory leave of absence of 14 days.
Schools will also start taking daily temperature-taking exercises from Wednesday and will monitor students and staff of any flu-like symptoms.
Separately, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said that the government has taken swift action against the spreading of falsehoods during the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. It has also intensified efforts to provide citizens with up-to-date and accurate information on the coronavirus outbreak situation in Singapore.
“Our aim is to equip Singaporeans with the facts so that you can safely navigate the online terrain, discern truth from falsehood, and know what you can do to lessen the risk to you and your families,” he said.
The Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) and MOH are working closely to share important public education information through multiple channels. These include the MOH website, Gov.Sg website, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Factually.
In particular, MCI is extending the use of the Gov.Sg WhatsApp group to disseminate updates and address falsehoods and misinformation on the Wuhan coronavirus. Since Sunday, more than 56,000 new users have signed up for the service, Iswaran said.
Risk of infection from transient contact is low
The fourth confirmed case – announced early on Sunday morning – is a 36-year-old male Chinese national from Wuhan who is being treated in an isolation ward at Sengkang General Hospital.
Prior to hospital admission on Friday, the patient stayed at Village Hotel Sentosa. He told authorities that he had visited Universal Studios Singapore and Vivocity, and also travelled by public transport, including taxi.
MOH said that the risk of infection from transient contact, such as on public transport or public spaces, is assessed to be low.
However, nine individuals have been identified as close contacts of the case. As of Sunday noon, eight have been contacted, and are being quarantined. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining close contact.
115 close contacts from confirmed cases
Contact tracing for the confirmed cases is ongoing. Once identified, MOH will closely monitor all close contacts. As a precautionary measure, they will be quarantined for 14 days from their last exposure to the patient.
In addition, all other identified contacts who have a low risk of being infected will be under active surveillance, and will be contacted daily to monitor their health status.
As of Sunday noon, MOH has identified 115 close contacts from the four confirmed cases. Of the 86 who are still in Singapore, 66 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining 20 close contacts.
Precautions to take
Singaporeans are advised not to travel to the whole of Hubei province. MOH also advises them to continue to exercise caution and attention to personal hygiene when travelling to the rest of the Middle Kingdom.
All travellers should monitor their health closely for two weeks upon return to Singapore and seek medical attention promptly if they feel unwell.
Travellers should inform their doctor of their travel history. If they have a fever or respiratory symptoms – such as cough or shortness of breath – they should wear a mask and call the clinic ahead of the visit.
Travellers and members of the public should also adopt the following precautions at all times:
Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds, and consumption of raw and undercooked meats;
Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness;
Observe good personal hygiene;
Practise frequent hand washing with soap - for example, before handling food or eating, after going to the 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 shortness of breath;
Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately;
Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.
MOH will continue to monitor the situation closely. As medical practitioners are on the lookout for patients with pneumonia who recently travelled to China, the Republic is likely to see more suspect cases that will need to be investigated for possible links to the Wuhan cluster.
With reporting by Dhany Osman.