SINGAPORE - A new Stay-Home Notice will be introduced for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning from mainland China.
They will be required to remain at home at all times for 14 days, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters on Monday (Feb 17).
The new scheme will take effect from Feb 18 at 11.59pm, and apply to all returnees with recent travel history to China, outside of Hubei province, within the last 14 days.
This will be stricter than the current leave of absence (LOA), which has allowed those returning to leave their homes briefly, for example, for their meals or to buy household supplies.
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on the coronavirus with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, stressed that there will be penalties for those who flout the Stay-Home Notice and the Government will ensure strict compliance.
The new scheme replaces the LOAs, which will no longer be issued.
Mr Wong said: "There are a substantial number of Singapore citizens, PRs, long-term pass holders still in China.
"At some point in time, they will want to come back to Singapore, especially after the Chinese New Year holidays. There's a higher chance now that some of them will be infected with the virus."
The Stay-Home Notice also applies to all work-pass holders, which means they should not leave their place of residence, the Ministry of Manpower said on Monday.
If the notice is breached, MOM said it could take action against the employer or worker.
Existing work-pass holders with Hubei-issued passports or with recent travel history to Hubei should still defer their return. They will continue to be quarantined when they return to Singapore.
MOM added that employers have to ensure that their work-pass holders on Stay-Home Notice can obtain meals and other daily essentials. If the work-pass holder is unable to make his own arrangements, the employer will have to make the necessary arrangements.
If support from employers is not forthcoming, work-pass holders should report their difficulties to MOM.
Even when under the Stay-Home Notice, the ministry said there was no need for workers to be segregated from others living in the same room or apartment, though social interactions and contact should be minimised.
Singapore confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on Jan 23.
Since then, as of Feb 16, there have been a total of 75 cases, of which 53 were locally transmitted.
The early patients were tourists from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak.
As of Sunday, 19 patients have been discharged - eight Chinese nationals, 10 Singaporeans and a Singapore permanent resident. However, five of the other 56 patients are still in critical care.
There are now five clusters of infection in Singapore: Grace Assembly of God church, The Life Church and Missions Singapore, the Yong Thai Hang health products shop, the Grand Hyatt Singapore and a Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Feb 14 that the impact of the virus here has already surpassed that of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, adding that the economy would definitely "take a hit".
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a video message on Sunday that the Government will do "all that is necessary" to help workers and firms recover from the crisis".
He added: "Never doubt that Singapore has the means to bounce back from this outbreak."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.
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