On Monday (16 March), Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s planned visit to Australia will be replaced by video conference instead. This decision is made in accordance with Australia’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Originally, PM Lee was supposed to visit Canberra on 23 March but the discussion will now take place online in view of Australia’s latest travel restrictions on visitors, which was announced on Sunday (15 March).

Australia’s new travel restrictions include placing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation on anyone who arrives into the country. This is done in an attempt to slow down the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison telephoned Prime Minister Lee over the weekend to discuss the visit in view of Australia’s travel restrictions on in-bound visitors,” said MFA in a statement.

It added, “They agreed that discussions will be done via video conference instead, and to proceed with the planned signings of important bilateral agreements.”

“This demonstrates the conviction of both sides that it is important to continue with the business of government, and maintain the good momentum of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, even as we each deal with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As of now, Australia has recorded close to 300 cases of COVID-19, and authorities are worried about the rate of the numbers rising.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed and verified 14 more cases of the novel coronavirus yesterday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 226.

Following this, MOH announced on Sunday that all travellers entering Singapore who have visited other ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in the past two weeks will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice.

The stay-home notice – which will include Singapore residents, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors -will take effect starting 11.59pm today, according to MOH.

However, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at a press briefing that the stay-home notice will not, however, apply to Singaporeans and Malaysians entering the Republic by sea and land crossings with the neighbouring country.

Those subject to the notice will be required to give proof of the location where they will carry out the notice, such as a hotel or a place of residence belonging to them or their family members to cover the entire stipulated 14-day period.

All short-term visitors who are nationals of any ASEAN country will be required to submit requisite information on their health to the Singapore Overseas Mission in their resident country prior to their intended date of travel to Singapore, the approval of which will be subject to Singapore’s MOH.

MOH warned that short-term visitors arriving “without the necessary approval will be denied entry into Singapore”.

“They are therefore advised to secure the approval before making definitive travel bookings,” the Ministry added.

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