Yellow fever threat: How vigilant are our gatekeepers?

PHOTO: Yellow fever threat: How vigilant are our gatekeepers?

I recently travelled with a group to Brazil to watch the World Cup. Before the journey, we were advised to get vaccinated against yellow fever 10 days prior to departure. This is a mandatory requirement in Singapore for such travel.

The reason is that yellow fever, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, is endemic in Brazil and parts of South America. I studied the measures put in place to ensure compliance, to assess any shortcomings that may inadvertently allow the yellow fever virus to slip into Singapore.

In the group, I found a fellow traveller who had his vaccination a mere 24 hours before travel. To me, this was self-defeating as it takes 10 days after the jab for the immunity to kick in.

Consequently, he had no protection during the time he was in Brazil. If he had been bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, he would have been infected.

Owing to the incubation period, an infected person may be asymptomatic when he returns to Singapore. Thus, the virus could be introduced to the island in this manner.

A returning Singaporean or permanent resident can also opt to use the lane reserved for the Immigration Automated Clearance System to pass through the Changi Airport checkpoint. Officers are not being deployed to ascertain where the person is flying in from, which means any infected person can walk right through.

On my return, I met someone who was planning to travel to Brazil for the World Cup matches. He did not know he had to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate. He was surprised when I brought this to his attention; this illustrates the lack of public awareness.

With Brazil hosting the World Cup, we could see a large number of football fans heading there. Are the current measures effective enough to ensure that the yellow fever virus does not take root in Singapore?

Letter from Bobby Chia Wee Peng

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