Singapore residents and long term pass holders departing the country from 27 Mar onwards will be charged full rates at public hospitals should they be warded for suspected COVID-19 cases and show an onset of symptoms within 14 days of their return.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tue (24 Mar) said that the measure was introduced following observation that there are still residents and long term pass holders who “disregard” the government’s travel advisories, which may “risk the health of other Singaporeans and residents when they return”.
“Singapore residents will also not be able to claim from MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plans for these treatments at public and private hospitals,” said MOH.
The Ministry added that any work pass holder or their dependant who exits Singapore from 27 Mar onwards “will be deprioritised for entry approval and could see significant delays before they are allowed to return to Singapore” should they proceed to travel abroad and return to Singapore after being infected.
Government agencies, according to the Ministry, will also ramp up enforcement efforts against persons on Stay-at-Home Notices (SHN) “using a combination of mobile applications, phone surveillance and house visits”.
“The number of officers conducting such checks will be increased substantially to tighten enforcement efforts. Detailed checks will also be carried out to verify the declared addresses of returning residents on the SHN forms,” said MOH, adding that the Government will be setting up “a centralised call centre” from 26 Mar to handle queries related to SHNs.
MOH also said that in order to grant “legal force” to the enhanced social distancing measures announced by the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19, the Ministry will be “promulgating Regulations under the Infectious Diseases Act”.
“The penalty for an offence under the Regulations, including any SHN breach, would be a fine of less than $10,000 or imprisonment of less than six months or both.
“In addition, existing levers under the Infectious Diseases Act, including the temporary suspension of operations, may be used against persons and operators found to be non-compliant with the Regulations,” said MOH.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the task force on COVID-19, told a press conference last Fri (20 Mar) that the Government will not hesitate to resort to “escalating penalties” such as issuing warnings, fines and revocation of licences against errant entities.
“If there is a need, we can also through the Infectious Diseases Act to prosecute egregious cases,” he stressed.
Mr Wong last Fri announced a suite of “very stringent, safe distancing measures” to limit further local transmission of COVID-19, which include ensuring a minimum of one metre’s distance between persons in public places, suspending gatherings with 250 or more attendees, urging employers to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees when possible, and suspending all senior-centric activities until 7 Apr.