9 in 10 imported COVID-19 cases between 18 Mar and 20 Mar asymptomatic at checkpoints: MOH

9 in 10 imported COVID-19 cases between 18 Mar and 20 Mar asymptomatic at checkpoints: MOH

Nine in 10 of imported COVID-19 cases were asymptomatic at border checkpoints on three days last week, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MOH said that the cases — between 18 Mar and Fri 20 Mar — did not exhibit symptoms such as fever when passing through the checkpoints.

This may pose difficulty to authorities in identifying suspected cases, as thermal scanners at checkpoints assist in detecting those with body temperature higher than normal.

90 per cent of the said cases, according to MOH, visited a doctor at a hospital or general practitioner’s clinic after they returned to Singapore.

119 cases in total were recorded during the three-day period, with 87 of them being imported cases, according to MOH’s figures.

All travellers entering Singapore have been given a mandatory 14-day stay-at-home notice (SHN) since 11.59pm last Fri. The notice applies even to those who are well.

Government agencies, said MOH yesterday (24 Mar), will ramp up enforcement efforts against persons on Stay-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.

On border control, short-term visitors — including visitors — are also currently barred from entering or transiting through Singapore in a measure that took effect since 11.59pm on Mon (23 Mar).

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 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.

Additionally, work pass holders or their dependants who exit 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, said MOH.

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