On Monday (17 February), the government announced that it is replacing the Leave of Absence (LOA) measure with a Stay-Home Notice (SHN) for all residents and long-term pass holders returning from mainland China (outside of Hubei Province), including citizens, as part of stricter measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Where the previous LOA—which has been implemented since 13 January—had allowed returnees to briefly leave their homes to buy meals or other supplies during the 14-day period, the new SHN requires returnees to stay home at all times during that period.
Those on LOA at the point that the SHN was implemented will continue to serve out their LOA, said the Ministry of Manpower on its website. The government will no longer be issuing any LOAs.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that the multi-ministry taskforce decided to introduce this new SHN due to the fact that there are still many residents and long-term pass holders in China who are expected to return to Singapore in the coming week, and that there is a higher chance that they could be carrying the virus.
However, Director of JC Global Concepts Jun Low took to Facebook today (20 February) to criticise the lateness of this move and the implications of the decision, specifically that the order to stay home would put those living under the same roof at risk at being infected.
Ms Low asked, “What about those family members and helpers under the same roof with this person undergoing quarantine? Is this not a concern to anyone, especially the authorities?”
“And perhaps you need time to again realize this later?” she added, referring to her opinion that the earlier LOA was a “grave mistake” as it allowed people to still leave their homes and risk infecting others.
Ms Low, the entrepreneur who is behind some of the renowned restaurants in Singapore and overseas like Central Hong Kong Café, Black Society and BreadStory (Malaysia and Dubai), then explained that a strict quarantine is needed due to uncertainty.
She explained that asking someone to stay home instead of keeping them isolated in quarantine presents a high risk that they would infect the others who are living under the same roof.
She slammed, “But perhaps the authorities deem [that there is] no other better choice and expecting that in a worst scenario if all others under the same roof are infected, then it is very much contained under this same roof?”
She also astutely pointed out that others living in the same house at the person who is issued the SHN are still free to move around and leave the house.
She added, “And again I stress, I hope it is not too late that our authorities especially the Minister heading this committee to give this due warranted consideration, and a solution.”
SHN has stricter measures than the LOA
The MOH has urged those under the SHN to constantly monitor their health and minimise contact with others.
As for workers returning from mainland China on work passes, their employers should first seek approval from the MOM before they return to Singapore.
Earlier this month, MOM suspended the work pass privileges of six employers and revoked the work pass for four workers when they were found to have breached the earlier leave of absence (LOA) requirements.
The new SHN comes with a warning that those who disregard the notice will be charged under Section 21A of the Infectious Diseases Act. MOH cautioned that foreign workers may have their work passes revoked and be repatriated while employers would have their work pass privileges withdrawn if they are found to ignore these measures.
Additionally, permanent residents, long-term visitor pass holders and dependant’s pass holders may have their re-entry permit and pass revoked or have their validity shortened if they flout the notice.
On the other hand, students could face disciplinary actions from their schools or institutions.