The Straits Times on Sat afternoon (28 Mar) took down an article on certain travellers’ accounts regarding having purportedly received unclear and incorrect information from airport officers on the commencement of their 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) period.
The article focused on “at least three travellers arriving at Changi Airport” who “complained about getting erroneous information” regarding when their SHN begins, upon their arrival in Singapore.
South China Morning Post senior correspondent Bhavan Jaipragas yesterday tweeted: “#Singapore’s @STcom appears to have taken down this #Covid19 story published an hour ago”.
Headline from URL: "Singapore travellers claim airport officials provided wrong information about stay home notices" pic.twitter.com/QDfqhFtKWl
— Bhavan Jaipragas 八万 (@jbhavan) March 28, 2020
Among the statements published in the article were that of a healthcare worker who had arrived from Sydney at 9pm last Thu (26 Mar), who said that she was told that her SHN began the next day.
“It is worrying because many passengers from the flight were young people, probably students, who might not verify the information and just take it as it is,” she told ST.
The second part of her statement, however, was omitted from the new version of the article, published at 6.42 pm yesterday.
It was stated in the original version that the healthcare worker — referred to as Ms Lee — told ST that most people would not read the SHN carefully, and added that “when a uniformed officer tells you that it only starts the next day, who are you going to believe?”.
She had also reportedly told ST that there were “long queues” as a result of having to fill physical forms upon arrival and “a lack of social distancing measures” at the immigration arrival checkpoints. The statement, however, was not included in the new ST article.
Ms Lee also said that had she not read news reports about a security personnel who went out of his house on the same day he returned to Singapore, she might have gone out instead of starting her SHN at home straight away.
“I can totally understand why the man went to eat bak kut teh, because I was told the same thing,” Ms Lee told ST.
Alan Tham received flak from netizens on social media — and even from Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament — for posting photographs of a bak kut teh meal he had whilst on a SHN.
He told ST on Wed (25 Mar) that he had decided to do so — on top of shopping for groceries — on the day he returned from a holiday in Myanmar, as he was told by an airport official that his SHN would only begin the day after his arrival at Changi Airport.
The original report noted that he “will likely be charged in court after allegedly breaching his SHN conditions” — this was not included in the new version of the report.
William Leong, who had arrived in Singapore from Thailand on 21 Mar, also told ST that according to an airport officer, his SHN would begin the next day.
“I asked him what I should do today and he said I was free to do whatever I wanted until it kicked in the next day,” he said.
However, Mr Leong said he had later rang the Ministry of Manpower’s hotline to confirm the information given by the airport officer after his wife expressed scepticism.
The mushroom farmer, in the original version of the ST report published yesterday, was also quoted as saying: “It did not make sense that if I did have COVID-19, that I could go out for a whole day to infect people. Then the 14-day stay-home notice would be meaningless.”
Mr Leong also reportedly told ST that while he understands that the “officers are doing their best to adapt” with the new regulations, he hopes that “with the new rules such misinformation will not be an issue anymore”. This was, however, also omitted from the revised version of the article.
User @Distant_Witness, in response to Mr Jaipragas’ tweet on the ST article, noted that the ST article “is back up with the relevant quotes from travellers claiming that officials told them that the stay home notices didn’t start immediately”.
“Maybe something really was a bit off but it can’t be proven now,” said the user.
Article is back up with the relevant quotes from travellers claiming that officials told them that the stay home notices didn't start immediately. Maybe something really was a bit off but it can't be proven now.https://t.co/B4LWXy7MRU
— Distant Witness (@Distant_Witness) March 28, 2020
User @PhilipLeong19 opined that the reason why a Day 0 is stipulated in the SHN is that if Day 1 is counted as the day of arrival in Singapore, “you are technically committing an offence already since its day 1 of your SHN and you are at the airport and not at home”.
My only comment. I believe the reason why there is a day 0 when you get the letter is because IF its day 1 when you land in Singapore, you are technically committing an offence already since its day 1 of your SHN and you are at the airport and not at home.
— Philip Leong (@PhilipLeong19) March 28, 2020
User @CafeSpecific, however, highlighted that the SHN does not state the exact time a person served the notice is allowed to leave their designated place.
“Should it be 14 x 24 hours after time of arrival? Or midnight 2 weeks later?” the user questioned.
On the piece of paper I received it says that the day of return counts as day 0 but it doesn’t say what time exactly I’m allowed to leave again. Should it be 14 x 24 hours after time of arrival? Or midnight 2 weeks later?
— Cafe Specific ????????????️???? (@CafeSpecific) March 28, 2020
Users on the HardwareZone forum have also questioned the reasoning behind the authorities’ decision to include a Day 0 instead of starting at Day 1, as including a Day 0 would mean that the SHN period is actually 15 days instead of the 14 stated.
“The average Joe will start counting the day you land as day 1,” said one user.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told ST on Sat that it is “clearly stated” in the SHN form that the period the notice has to be served begins on the day of one’s return to Singapore.
“Persons issued with an stay-home notice (SHN) are required to acknowledge the SHN, including the requirements set out within, and the SHN is operative with immediate effect,” added the Authority.
ICA also stressed that it has reminded its officers to improve the communication of the SHN requirements to travellers, and has put in place measures alongside Changi Airport Group such as marking queue spots in immigration halls and closing alternate automated immigration lanes.
New regulations, which took effect since Friday, require all travellers to submit electronic health declaration forms prior to immigration clearance, following which they will be served the SHN in advance.
Travellers arriving from the UK and the US in particular — where cases have spiked exponentially recently and make up the largest number of imported cases into Singapore to date — have been sent to designated hotels straight from the airport to serve their SHN in rooms.
Mr Jaipragas, who is currently serving his fourth day of the SHN after returning to Singapore from Washington DC, in a string of tweets today (29 Mar) said that he is currently serving the notice in his parents’ residence.
He added that he was given the option of doing so in one of the designated hotels but had “turned it down”.
Touching on his return to Singapore instead of flying to Hong Kong where he is permanently based, Mr Jaipragas said that he did so “out of anticipation that an election could be called soon”.
“If I had gone back to HK I would have been locked at home for four weeks; 2 weeks serving a quarantine in HK and then a further 2 weeks in SG. Not ideal,” he said.