Singapore — On Tuesday (March 3), Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong outlined new measures the Government is taking in terms of travel and screening for Covid-19 at Singapore’s borders. He is also urging Singaporeans to be “mentally prepared” for the number of infected cases in the country to increase.
New screening measures
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on the Covid-19 outbreak, announced a new mechanism that is being implemented at all checkpoints.
“We have been monitoring the virus situation very closely, and as all of you know, it is spreading very quickly to countries everywhere. And Singapore, as a small, open city connected to the world, we face a higher risk of imported cases. That’s why the task force has decided to take additional precautions for travel in and out of Singapore,” he said.
Previously, temperature scanners were put in place to test for Covid-19 cases, but Mr Wong has noted that these alone are insufficient and ineffective.
“We will now also identify, look out for people with respiratory symptoms, identify them, and request that they take a swab test in order to test whether they are positive for the virus. Those are additional precautions that we are taking, both in terms of travel as well as the checks at our borders,” he said.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that effective from Tuesday (March 3), those showing respiratory symptoms at the borders will be identified and requested to take a Covid-19 swab test.
After the test, people can continue on their way but are advised to minimise contact with others while awaiting results, which may take anywhere from three to six hours to be released.
“… border controls are still useful at this stage of the epidemic, because we can still identify where the sources of risk are, and we can take appropriate measures to reduce the risk from these infected sources,” noted Mr Wong, stressing that by doing so, the “epidemic curve” in Singapore will be flattened.
New travel advisories
Mr Wong also remarked on additional travel advisories — for outgoing travel, “all non-essential trips to Iran, northern Italy, Japan and the whole of the Republic of Korea” should be deferred.
For incoming travellers, visitors who have recently travelled to Iran, northern Italy and the Republic of Korea will not be permitted to enter Singapore. Returning Singaporean citizens, residents and long-term pass holders will be allowed in the country but will be issued a Stay-Home Notice.
Mr Wong noted that Japan is not included in the list of restricted countries as “the number of infected cases in Japan at this stage is still lower compared to the other countries”. However, there is an advisory on outgoing trips to Japan at the moment.
Mental preparedness is key
Mr Wong remarked that although Singapore has made many efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19, mental preparedness is necessary for the coming days, weeks and months.
“We have to be mentally prepared for the number of infected cases in Singapore to go up,” he said, noting that Singapore has gotten used to the number of cases rising “by just a handful everyday”.
Mr Wong cautioned against complacency, as the situation in Singapore could also change “very easily”, as it has done in other countries.
“This has happened elsewhere; it can happen in Singapore too,” he said.
This is not the first time Mr Wong has advised Singaporeans on mental preparedness. At the end of January, he urged citizens to be “psychologically prepared” that the coronavirus epidemic could be worse than the Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003.
As we “cannot stop” the Covid-19 outbreak from continuing, Mr Wong reminded that the people have to be prepared that the number of infected cases may go up.
“We do have to redouble our efforts, not just focusing on border controls, but increasingly on what we can do within Singapore itself. We have been highlighting the need to take all the precautions like maintaining good hand hygiene, upholding higher standards of personal hygiene, as well as public hygiene in common areas, in public areas, hawker centres, in places that we go to. These are of vital importance.”