SINGAPORE - Singapore residents should defer all non-essential travel, and border restrictions have been tightened to include all Asean states, as the Republic moves to reduce the growing risk of Covid-19 importation.
With immediate effect, Singaporeans are advised to defer all non-essential travel abroad to reduce their risks of contracting the virus during this pandemic, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Sunday (March 15).
This advisory will apply for 30 days and is subject to further review.
From 11.59pm on Monday, all travellers - including Singapore citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors - entering Singapore with recent travel history to Asean countries, Japan, Switzerland or the United Kingdom within the last 14 days will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN).
But this will exclude Singaporeans and Malaysians using sea and land crossings with Malaysia, given the large numbers who cross the borders daily, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday.
Separate arrangements are being made by a bilateral joint working group, said Mr Wong, who co-chairs a Singapore multi-ministry task force to fight the coronavirus.
All other travellers affected by the new border restrictions announced will also have to provide proof of the place where they will serve the notice, for example, a hotel booking covering the entire period, or a place of residence they or their family members own.
They may also be swabbed for testing for Covid-19, even if asymptomatic, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday. This is because of the risk of community transmission in those countries and evidence of cases that have been imported from those countries into Singapore, said the MOH.
Currently, the test is done only when travellers show symptoms.
In addition to the stay-home requirement, also from 11.59pm on Monday, all short-term visitors who are nationals of any Asean country will have to submit requisite information on their health to the Singapore Overseas Mission in the country where they reside before their intended date of travel.
The submission will have to be approved by Singapore's MOH before they travel to Singapore, and the approval will be verified by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers at the Singapore checkpoints.
Short-term visitors who arrive in Singapore without the necessary approval will be denied entry into Singapore.
"They are therefore advised to secure the approval before making definitive travel bookings," the MOH statement said.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will introduce new measures for foreign domestic workers entering Singapore. Details will be announced later.
The MOH also said in its statement that it has seen a number of imported cases entering Singapore for the purpose of seeking medical care.
"(This) imposes a significant burden on Singapore's healthcare resources during this critical period when we are focused on containing the situation within Singapore," it said.
Globally, there are now more than 150,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 5,000 deaths across 135 countries, and the numbers are increasing rapidly, the ministry said.
In the past three days, Singapore has seen an increase of 25 new cases.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Of these, more than three-quarters were imported cases, of which close to 90 per cent were Singapore residents who had returned to Singapore from overseas.
During the same period, more than one-quarter of imported cases were from Asean countries, the ministry added.
The latest restrictions come on top of strong measures announced by the Government last week to stop the virus from spreading within the country, including using social distancing as a major line of defence.
There are also recommendations by the health and manpower ministries to have employers adopt telecommuting, stagger work hours and reduce close contact at work, where feasible.
As of Saturday, Singapore confirmed 12 new Covid-19 cases, bring the total to 212.
Of the 107 confirmed cases who are still in hospital, most are stable or improving. A total of 105 cases have fully recovered from the infection and been discharged from hospital.
In a Facebook post on Sunday evening, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the latest restrictions will not have an impact on the supply of food and other essentials between Singapore and Malaysia, as drivers of goods vehicles will be able to enter as per normal.
“These new measures are necessary to ensure that our healthcare system does not get overwhelmed by people entering Singapore for the sole purpose of seeking treatment in Singapore. We will continue to monitor the situation closely as it develops globally,” he added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.