In the wake of rising casualties from the Wuhan virus and over 2,000 people infected up until now, Singapore’s multi-ministry task force which was set up to combat the disease, has now implemented a host of new measures. These measures include enhanced checks and screening and compulsory leave for people returning home from China, all of which are designed to combat the spread of the virus.
Singaporeans are also advised to avoid travelling to mainland China if it is not essential travel.
Starting from Wednesday (29 Jan), passengers with Hubei passports will undergo checks, temperature screening will be done at airports for all incoming flights and additional attention will be placed on flights from mainland China.
New measures will also be imposed on students and workers coming back from mainland China.
Individuals who have travelled to China in the last 14 days will have to undergo health monitoring with temperature checks twice a day for two weeks from their return as well as make declarations concerning their travel and health to their respective organisations.
Anyone with close contact with vulnerable populations, such as those in the eldercare, pre-schools and healthcare sectors, will have to take 14 days of compulsory leave of absence upon returning to Singapore.
Around mid-January, the estimated 800 students coming back from China will be asked to remain at home.
On Monday (27 Jan), the taskforce co-chair, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, emphasised at the conference attended by several fourth-generation ministers that the government would go all out to ensure the safety of fellow Singaporeans.
Measures have been bolstered progressively to curb the spread of the virus, such as enhanced travel advisories and border controls, as well as temperature monitoring.
Mr Gan remarked that doctors were on high alert and that community spread of the disease is not in the picture currently.
“The situation is rapidly evolving..We will institute more measures if necessary,” he further added.
On Monday (27 Jan), central Hubei authorities reported 371 new cases and 24 new deaths. The tally of confirmed fatalities of the outbreak has increased to 80.
According to figures released by the central government, Hubei province’s latest figures record the nationwide total cases of confirmed infections to exceed 2,300.
Based on the death toll reported, the figures for Wuhan virus is still lower than Sars, standing at 3 per cent as of now, with the rate changing by the day.
Sars virus, which was unleashed globally in 2003, killed off 800 of the 8,000 infected people.
Up until now, 66 people are under quarantine orders in the country. If these are Singaporeans, these individuals are quarantined at the allocated government facilities such as university hostels and chalets that can accommodate around 1,000 people. Quarantines are also done at home.
Regarding the leave of absence for students, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday that this is not an extended holiday: “We will support their learning… teachers will reach out, they can catch up on lessons at home,” Mr Ong added.
Josephine Teo, the Manpower Minister, stressed that it is crucial for employers to ensure the safety of their workers by being up-to-date with advisories being updated and issued.
Workers should take charge of their own personal hygiene and health while employers should implement recommended measures without delay, Ms Teo added.
According to Masagos Zulkifli, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, proper disposal of biohazards as well as clean-up and disinfection are the main tasks of the ministry.
S Iswaran, the Minister for Communications and Information warned that information could be abused to paint a false picture of the actual scenario and so the government will go the extra mile to ensure that information is up-to-date and accurate.
Added to this, Lawrence Wong, the Minister for National Development and the task force co-chair, stressed that it is crucial that people do not become xenophobic and people should continue living normally and stay calm.
Mr Wong concluded “Let’s not fall prey to false rumours or succumb to panic,” and that official sources should be the go-to source of information regarding this issue.