SINGAPORE: People who enter Singapore with recent travel history to ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland or the United Kingdom will be issued with a 14-day stay-home notice.
This will take effect from 11.59pm on Monday (Mar 16) and applies to all travellers, including Singapore residents, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday.
It will not apply to Singaporeans and Malaysians using sea and land crossings with Malaysia, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said, adding that separate arrangements are currently being worked out by a bilateral joint working group with Malaysia.
Mr Wong, who also co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce, added that about 300,000 people move across the land checkpoints with Malaysia every day.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday that given Singapore’s proximity to Malaysia, the 14-day stay-home notice will not apply to the land and sea crossings between both countries.
“Singaporean and Malaysian workers who commute between Singapore and Malaysia daily will still be able to do so,” Mr Chan said in a Facebook post.
“The latest restrictions will also 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.”
In the last three days, Singapore has seen an increase of 25 new COVID-19 cases. Of these, more than three-quarters are imported cases, MOH said, adding that 90 per cent of the imported cases were Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who had returned to Singapore from overseas.
The new border control measures are aimed at preventing further importation of COVID-19 cases, the health ministry added.
From 11.59pm on Monday, travellers who have visited any ASEAN country, Japan, Switzerland or the UK within the last 14 days will be issued with a 14-day stay-home notice.
They will have to provide proof of the place where they will serve the 14-day stay-home notice, for example, a hotel booking covering the entire period, or a place of residence they or their family members own.
Those under a stay-home notice will have to remain in their place of residence at all times for 14 days after entering Singapore. They may also be swabbed for testing for COVID-19, even if asymptomatic.
“This is because of the risk of community transmission in these countries and evidence of cases that have been imported from these countries into Singapore,” MOH said.
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR ASEAN VISITORS
In addition to the stay-home notice requirement, 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 they are a resident of before their intended date of travel.
The submission will have to be approved by Singapore’s MOH before travel, and the approval will be verified by 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,” MOH said.
SOME TRAVELLERS SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT IN SINGAPORE
Some people have travelled to Singapore with the “specific purpose of seeking medical care” in Singapore, said Mr Wong.
“It is very hard for us to cope with this additional demand,” the minister added.
“During this critical period, our healthcare resources are already stretched, and that’s why for both reasons – firstly, to manage the number of imported cases and also to deal with this demand for healthcare services, we have to be tighter with our border control measures.”
He said the Government’s priority during this time is to ensure that Singapore’s healthcare resources are focused on helping Singaporeans.
“If there are Singaporeans who are sick, Singaporeans who are infected, we have to ensure we have adequate ICU and healthcare capacity to take care of them,” the minister explained.
He added that Singapore did not want to see a surge in the number of people coming here who “may not be symptomatic, and then coming here to be tested and to be treated here”.
“We understand why they would like to do so and we would certainly like to help them, but if there is a sudden surge, we don’t have the capacity to do so and the capacity of our healthcare system must be prioritised for Singaporeans,” Mr Wong said.
He noted that there have been patients who already knew they were symptomatic but travelled to Singapore and were “literally sent straight away” from the airport to hospital or the National Centre for Infectious Diseases for treatment.
When asked why the Government did not put in place travel restrictions for travellers who had recently been in the US – which currently has more cases than Japan – Mr Wong said travel restrictions are “not just about the numbers”.
Instead, some of the countries under travel restrictions have “abandoned any attempt” at containing the spread of the virus, he said.
Noting that the UK and Switzerland had said so “publicly”, Mr Wong said: “If there is no deliberate effort to contain, then we anticipate that the numbers of infected cases in these countries will rise even more sharply in the coming days or weeks.”
However, the US has “put in place quite stringent border control measures” for travellers from Europe and is also starting to “ramp up” some of their measures, including testing, the minister said.
“We are watching America and like I said, this is a dynamic situation, every few days we have more information about the status in different countries,” Mr Wong said.
Singapore may add new countries to the list or adjust border controls countries already on the list, depending on how those countries deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
DEFER ALL NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ABROAD
MOH also advised Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel abroad with immediate effect.
“This advisory will apply for 30 days and will be reviewed thereafter. This is to reduce the risk of Singaporeans contracting COVID-19 infection while overseas during this global pandemic,” MOH added.
Singaporeans who have made plans to travel abroad during the March school holidays are advised to review their plans. All travellers will be subject to the prevailing travel measures imposed by their destination countries, and those imposed by Singapore upon their return home.
“As the situation remains uncertain and will continue to evolve, Singaporeans are advised to review their travel plans for the coming months after the March school holidays as well,” the health ministry said.
As previously announced, residents and long-term pass holders returning from mainland China (outside Hubei province), Iran, Italy, France, Germany, South Korea and Spain will continue to be issued with a 14-day stay-home notice upon return to Singapore, while short-term visitors from these areas will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore.
All travellers entering Singapore and exhibiting fever and/or other symptoms of respiratory illness are required to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at the checkpoints, regardless of travel history.
Such travellers will also be issued with a 14-day stay-home notice, which they will have to serve in full even if the result of the swab test is negative. Those who meet the clinical suspect case definition will be conveyed to the hospital for follow-up.
NEW MEASURES AFFECT WORK PASS HOLDERS
The new border control measures will apply to work pass holders – regardless of nationality – and their dependents.
In a separate statement, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that all work pass holders with travel history to the affected countries within the last 14 days must obtain approval from MOM before they commence their journey to Singapore.
This will apply to all existing work pass holders currently out of Singapore, as well as in-principle approval holders who have yet to enter Singapore.
Upon arrival in Singapore, all affected work pass holders will be placed on a mandatory 14-day stay-home notice.
When applying for entry approval, employers will be required to declare to MOM that they have arranged for suitable premises to house entering or returning employees for the duration of their stay-home notice.
Employers are required to apply for entry approval online. Employers should also inform their affected employees, including their dependents, not to make travel plans to Singapore until approval has been received from MOM.
The employers will be required to send the MOM approval letter to their employees, who will need to show it to the airline staff upon check-in and at the ICA checkpoint upon arrival in Singapore.
“The entry approval requirement for work pass holders, including dependants, with travel history to mainland China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days, remains unchanged,” MOM said.
“Employers and work pass holders have a joint duty to ensure that the stay-home notice is complied with.
“Work pass holders who have been put on a stay-home notice shall not leave their place of residence. They should monitor their health closely and seek medical attention immediately if they develop any fever or symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath.”
Work pass holders on stay-home notices can make their own arrangements to get their daily necessities, such as meals and daily essentials. This could include receiving help from house or dormitory mates or home delivery services.
MOM said that employers should 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 their 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.
The manpower ministry said that it will not hesitate to take enforcement measures against errant employers or employees who do not comply with the requirements, including the revocation of work passes and withdrawal of work pass privileges.
The Leave of Absence Support Programme has been extended to businesses and self-employed persons affected by the stay-home notice requirements. Under the programme, eligible employers will be able to apply for S$100 daily per affected worker for the duration of the stay-home notice.
Affected workers include Singapore citizens, permanent residents and work pass holders who are placed on stay-home notice upon their return to Singapore.
Eligible employers will also qualify for levy waiver for affected foreign workers during the stay-home notice period.