Yesterday, during a visit to Oasia Hotel Downtown, Manpower Minister, Josephine Teo said approximately 30,000 work pass holders of Chinese nationality who departed Singapore for Chinese New Year break, have not returned.

The workers comprise 1% of the total work force and upon returning, they would be required to go on a 14-day leave of absence.

The said leave of absence extends to all Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders returning from China.

Mrs Teo explained that those who have been instructed to stay home should exercise personal responsibility and minimize social contact. Failing to adhere to a leave of absence could force the government to take drastic measures.

However, the Minister urged Singaporeans not to ostracize the workers while they are on mandatory leave of absence.

She advised landlords, dormitory operators, and even co-tenants who consider eviction of those affected by the coronavirus was unnecessary because “by and large they are not unwell”.

Mrs Teo added that the introduction of compulsory leave of absence is only a method of extra precaution to minimize contracting of the virus. Nonetheless, she reiterated this should be tinged with support to those who have been affected.

At the same time, Minister of Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, made a clarion call to Singaporeans not to reject those who have been placed on leave of absence.

He recounted the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) incidence where Singaporeans worked together to overcome the health crisis.

As of Saturday, Singapore has imposed stricter travel restrictions on visitors who have been in mainland China in the past 14 days, barring them from entry or transit through Singapore. Those who hold Chinese passports are faced with Visa restrictions.

These precautionary steps have been taken to reduce the risk of the pathogen from spreading within the community here.

On Sunday, Home Affairs Minister, K. Shanmugam praised Singaporeans who contributed to the efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Among them were the Singapore Arm Forces who have worked tirelessly in packing 5.2 million masks which were handed out to the public as well as volunteers who helped in the distribution of the masks.

In spite of that, Mr Shanmugam called out to a “small minority” who chose to spread fake news and spread anti-Chinese sentiments.

“We are bigger than this and our hearts are bigger than this,” he said.

The minister, rightfully summed this up saying that “Really, we shouldn’t come down to this level of xenophobia. We have to avoid these sorts of irrational actions.”

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