The Singapore government has announced that it will impose entry ban for all new visitors with recent travel history to Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea within the last 14 days, or transit through Singapore with effect on Wednesday (4 March), 2359 hrs.
It will also suspend the issuance of all forms of new visas to those with Iranian passports and suspend those that previously issued.
The announcement made on Tuesday (3 March) is in light of the surge in the number of confirmed cases around the world – in particular in Iran, northern Italy, Japan and Republic of Korea.
As of 3 March 2020, 12pm, there were 90,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, including 10,538 cases outside mainland China. The Republic of Korea has reported 4,812 cases, an increase of 600 cases in the last day. There were 1,835 cases reported in Italy, mostly in its northern region. Iran has reported 1,501 cases, an increase of 523 cases in the last day, and Japan has confirmed 268 cases.
The Multi-Ministry Taskforce that was formed to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic, also advises Singaporeans to defer non-essential travel to Iran, northern Italy, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Singaporeans should note that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ advisory issued on 8 January 2020 against travelling to or remaining in Iran due to rising tensions in the Middle East remains in place.
The Taskforce states that it will continue to take a calibrated and risk-based approach in determining the appropriate precautions and measures for Singapore.
“In the days ahead, it is likely that we will see a surge of infected cases in countries around the world, including in America, Europe, the Middle East and the rest of Asia. Singapore is a small, globally-connected city-state, and we are faced with a higher risk of imported cases.” said the Taskforce.
The Taskforce has earlier imposed similar travel restrictions on travellers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days, as well as anyone with a China passport. The number of COVID-19 infection cases is the highest in Hubei, China where the novel coronavirus is said to have originated from.
Additional precautions for outgoing and incoming travellers
As the situation will continue to evolve, Singapore residents who need to travel to the affected regions are advised to regularly check the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) website for updates. Travellers are also advised to stay vigilant, monitor developments and heed the advice of the local authorities while overseas.
From 4 March 2020, 2359 hours, all new visitors with recent travel history to Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore. With immediate effect, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will suspend the issuance of all forms of new visas to those with Iranian passports. Previously issued short-term and multiple-visit visas for those with Iranian passports will also be suspended. During this period of suspension, they will not be allowed entry into Singapore.
From 4 March 2020, 2359 hours, the following returning groups will be issued with a Stay-Home Notice (SHN):
a) Residents (Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents) with recent travel history to Iran, northern Italy, or the Republic of Korea within the last 14 days; and
b) Long-term pass holders (including work passes, Student’s Pass, Dependant’s Pass and Long-term Visit Pass) with recent travel history to Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea within the last 14 days.
Under the SHN, they will have to remain in their place of residence at all times for a 14-day period after returning to Singapore.
Expanded clinical case definition
MOH has expanded the definition of suspect cases to include persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness who had been to Iran, northern Italy, Japan and the Republic of Korea within 14 days before onset of symptoms. Cases meeting the expanded definition will be referred to hospitals for further assessment.
Precautionary testing for symptomatic travellers
From 4 March 2020, 2359 hours, travellers entering Singapore and exhibiting fever and/or other symptoms of respiratory illness but who do not meet the clinical suspect case definition may be required to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at the checkpoint. They may carry on with their journey immediately after undergoing the test. Pending the results, which may take between three and six hours, the travellers are advised to minimise contact with others as a precautionary measure. Individuals will be contacted on their swab test results and those with positive results will be conveyed to the hospital in a dedicated ambulance.
Short-term visitors who are identified for testing but refuse to do so will not be allowed entry into Singapore. Singapore Permanent Residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities and work pass privileges revoked or the validity shortened. All travellers, including Singapore Citizens, who do not comply with the testing or who cannot be contacted subsequently may face penalties and can be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act.
The COVID-19 swab test kit deployed at checkpoints will allow testing to be conducted beyond persons who are referred to hospitals, and extend testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure.
This additional testing capability deployed upfront at checkpoints is said to further increase the likelihood of detecting imported cases at the point of entry.
However, the Taskforce warns that, as with any test, a negative result does not completely rule out the possibility of infection. As such, symptomatic travellers with a negative test result should continue to minimise social contact and seek medical attention should symptoms not improve over the next three days.