Visitors with recent travel history to China not allowed to enter or transit in Singapore

Cathay Pacific says it will allow passengers flying to or from any mainland China airport to rebook, re-route or take a refund on any type of ticket booked up to the end of February. Photo: Bloomberg. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SINGAPORE, Jan 31, 2020, The Straits Times. All travellers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days will be barred from entry or transit in Singapore, as the nation ramps up measures to keep the Wuhan virus at bay. The new measures will kick in at 11.59pm on Saturday (Feb 1), The Straits Times reported.

This comes even as the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the first Singaporean confirmed to be infected with the Wuhan virus.

The 47-year-old woman was one of the Singaporeans evacuated from Wuhan on Thursday. She did not show any symptoms when she boarded the flight, said the ministry on Friday evening.

When she arrived at Changi Airport, she was found to have a fever during medical screening, and was taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

She tested positive for Wuhan coronavirus infection on Friday at about 2pm. She is currently warded in an isolation room at the centre.

Earlier on Friday, the Immigration authorities suspended the issuing of new visas to Singapore, as well as transit passage through it, to those with China passports, with immediate effect.

However, Chinese passport holders who can show that they had not been to China recently, may be allowed entry, on a case-by-case basis.

Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term-pass holders returning from China will be placed on a leave of absence of 14 days, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Friday (Jan 31).

“On top of all that we’ve already introduced over the past few days, (this) will enable us to limit the number of new imported cases here and to reduce risk of community spread in Singapore,” he said at a press conference on Friday.

“The situation remains fluid, it’s constantly changing, and we do not rule out taking further measures,” added Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the spread of the Wuhan virus here.

The tough new measures come on the heels of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) announcement on Thursday that the coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

The virus has now infected over 9,000 people – surpassing Sars, which had over 8,000 infections. It has killed over 200, with China’s Wuhan city at the epicentre of the crisis.

There is no community spread of Wuhan virus within Singapore, Mr Wong stressed, and the authorities are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of this happening.

Limiting the number of new imported cases here is a key part of this effort.

As of Thursday, 13 people had tested positive for the virus in Singapore. All were travellers from Wuhan.

The authorities will suspend issuing visas to those with China passports with immediate effect.

Appeals will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, for instance, if a person holding a China passport has been living elsewhere.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers will also check the travel history of travellers to ensure that they have not been in China in 14 days. If so, they will be prevented from entering Singapore.

The WHO believes that it is still possible to interrupt the spread of the virus, provided that countries put in place strong preparedness and response measures, and there has been increased action worldwide to limit global spread by restricting the entry of possible contacts and cases into other countries.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday evening also said that it was taking further steps to limit the potential risk returning foreign workers from mainland China may pose to Singapore, in line with extra precautionary measures announced by the MOH.

With immediate effect, the MOM said it will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from mainland China until further notice.

Renewal applications for existing work pass holders will not be affected.

The ministry added that work pass holders entering Singapore and who have travelled to mainland China in the last 14 days must, with immediate effect, take a 14-day leave of absence when they arrive here.

Existing work pass holders with Hubei-issued passports or who recently travelled to Hubei will continue to be quarantined when they return to Singapore.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday that he will announce details to help those affected in the Budget statement on Feb 18. On Saturday, he will also share an outline of some of the key measures being planned.

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