In light of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, Hong Kong and Singapore seem to have been attracting an inflow of foreigners and travellers into each city as people see these two places as a safe place to stay with the strict enforcement of precautionary measures in containing the coronavirus outbreak.
South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that more and more travellers abroad who choose to stay in Hong Kong and Singapore believed these two countries are taking more serious measures against the coronavirus threat rather than the countries that they were staying at, such as strict enforcement and better treatment facilities.
It was earlier reported that more Indonesians came to Singapore to seek for COVID-19 treatment and testing as they have confidence in Singapore’s healthcare system, compared to the poor quality of public health services in their country.
Previously, an Indonesian woman who had been categorised as a patient under surveillance of COVID-19, claimed to be declined by the country’s hospital and referred to the other major hospital without supervision, showing the Indonesian government’s mishandling of COVID-19 cases.
At the same time, despite close links with China, Hong Kong also reported fewer cases of COVID-19 than many European countries.
Indeed, the city had put in place intense precautionary measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, such as exercising social-distancing by allowing staff to work from home, practicing good hygiene with every resident wearing a mask in public and deploying hand sanitizers at their commute stations.
Inflow of foreigners and travellers sparks concern over rising number of infections
However, the inflow of foreigners and travellers sparks concern over the rising number of infections due to an increase in the numbers of imported cases seen in Hong Kong and Singapore.
As of 18 March, Singapore reported 47 additional cases of COVID-19, which involved 33 imported cases, bringing the total infected cases to 313 so far. While in Hong Kong, SCMP reported that the city has confirmed 25 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday – mostly imported from overseas, bringing the city’s total number of cases to 192.
Concerning the public hospitals’ resources in tackling the expected rise of infections in Singapore, the government which had previously provide free testing and treatment for the foreigners and locals, announced last Monday (9 March) that short-term visitors will need to pay for their treatment fees for COVID-19 although the testing fees will still be waived.
On Sunday (15 March), Singapore government also announced that all travellers entering Singapore who have recent travel history to other ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in the past two weeks will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice as a measure to contain coronavirus transmission.
Additionally, an entry ban and prohibition to transit through Singapore has also been imposed since 4 March to visitors with recent travel history to Iran, northern Italy or Republic of Korea within 14 days.
As for Hong Kong, authorities issued a red travel alert covering all countries, where all arrivals from foreign countries will require two weeks of quarantine or medical surveillance starting from Thursday (19 March).
Speaking on this, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam told the media that the consequences will be unimaginable and subsequently increase the burden of public health system if the imported cases resulted in a community outbreak, reported CNN.
With the fears of the global pandemic, an infectious diseases physician at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital Dr Asok Kurup told SCMP that travellers who entered the country before the government secured its travel restriction may cause a new wave of coronavirus infections in Singapore.
Dr Asok said, “We are going to be prepared to see a bit of an increase and spike in cases over the next two weeks because, as with the surge in tourists, there will certainly be cases among them.”
He added, “We would probably have to deal with the surge and most of the hospitals even in the private sector are ready to accept cases and we have ramped up infrastructure in that way.”