SINGAPORE — In a touching scene from a video shared widely on social media, a family could be seen laying out a red carpet for their grandmother, who flew in on one of the first flights from China.

It shows an excited young girl jumping up and down, holding up a placard that reads “A warm welcome, dear grandma”, a boy holding a bunch of flowers, and two women taking photos while an older woman arrives in a wheelchair. As the family cried out excitedly, grandma got up and hugged and greeted them all.

The video, which was posted on the 8worldnews Facebook page on Monday (Jan 9) as well as on the TikTok channel of mustsharenews, has been seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers.

@mustsharenews

China reopened borders and lifted travel restrictions on Sunday (8 Jan) #singapore #mustsharenews #tiktoksg #sgnews

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After being shut for three years since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Beijing finally opened its borders on Jan 8 (Sunday). It also follows the start of “chun yun” the day before or the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel.

Previous to the pandemic, it was the biggest yearly migration around the globe, with people returning to their hometowns or spending holidays with relatives. And on Sunday at Changi Airport, one family greeted their grandmother in royal style, whom they hadn’t seen in almost four years.

On Dec 30, the Ministry of Health said it is “closely watching the global COVID-19 situation worldwide. Caseloads have gone up in many countries, due to the uptick in international travel and onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.”

MOH added that China is a “particular concern” because it faces a large infection wave, acknowledging that “new and more dangerous variants may emerge, and travelers from China should not burden Singapore’s hospitals.

Because of this, several Members of Parliament raised questions about how prepared Singapore is for the reopening of China with the possibility of new virus variants and the need for stricter measures for travellers.

The MPs, all of whom are from the People’s Action Party, asked about the risk of a more hazardous variant developing; more stringent restrictions to prevent a new wave of infections; additional booster shots for the elderly; increased measures at Changi Airport for flights from China; whether there’s a trend of younger Singaporeans becoming more resistant to the booster shot, among other questions.

In a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday (Jan 9), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung noted two important reasons why the country’s current measures keep COVID-19 infections low.

The first is the small number of flights from China, currently at 38 per week, a far cry from the 400 weekly pre-pandemic. This means there are only 700 to 1000 travellers daily, fewer than 10 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers.

“In the four weeks running up to Jan 1, 200 travellers from China were detected to have COVID, so they accounted for less than 5 per cent of our total infections,” Mr Ong said.

“Of the incoming travellers during this period, seven developed severe illnesses and had to be hospitalised. One of them was from China.

These are not large numbers, so the impact on our healthcare system was very small,” he added. /TISG

Singaporean traveller from China severely ill from COVID-19, MOH monitoring new variants & reviewing border measures

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