Yesterday (22 Apr), Straits Times (ST) published a report quoting medical experts saying that it is not yet necessary to ban flights from India or tighten social distancing or gathering guidelines, despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in India.
At the same time, netizens did not agree with the opinion of these experts and continued to urge the authorities to ban flights from India (‘Netizens urge a ban on flights from India; slam experts who say it is not yet necessary‘).
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, the vice-dean of global health at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health was quoted as saying, “A 14-day quarantine or SHN would detect more than 98 per cent of Covid-19 cases, including those who were infected while on the plane,” stressing that the 21-day total quarantine combined with specific tests could “detect virtually all cases.”
He added that the long SHN period would impose a significant financial and mental cost to the traveller.
ST’s report included the opinion of Infectious disease expert Leong Hoe Nam who said that while banning flights is easy, it is about achieving balance, noting the need to also support the economy.
Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health echoed similar sentiments, noting that a flight ban is merely short-term relief.
He said, “If such flight bans were successful, we would have seen a much smaller Covid-19 footprint globally, given the number of flight bans and border closures in the early months of 2020.”
Despite the advice from these experts, MOH finally announced last evening that all long-term pass holders and short term visitors who have been in India within the last two weeks will not be allowed entry or transit through Singapore starting from today (23 Apr) at 11.59pm “until further notice”.
The ban will also apply to all those who had obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore.
The announcement came after 11 migrant workers of Westlite Woodlands dormitory were tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, of which 10 of them have initially recovered from the disease.
In a statement, MOH noted that while there is no evidence that the cases are linked to the new strain from India, many of the arrivals from India are workers in the construction, marine and process sectors.
“Even with our control measures, there is still a risk that a leak may happen, and cause another wave of infection in the dormitories. It is also a concern that recovered workers (i.e. those who had been infected earlier) are susceptible to being re-infected,” it said.
As such, the Ministry has decided to further tighten border measures with India.
After the announcement from MOH, the experts appear to have kept quiet over the matter.