SINGAPORE: Singapore will block entry or transit for visitors with travel history to Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days, amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Europe. 

The new border restrictions, which take effect on Sunday (Mar 15) at 11.59pm, come after an increase in imported cases in Singapore, particularly of those with travel history to European countries, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday.

As of Thursday, nearly 25 per cent of all COVID-19 cases – or 47 cases out of 187 – in Singapore were imported, according to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

“Over the past 10 days alone, there have been 23 imported cases, or nearly a third of all new cases. These included 13 cases with travel history to European countries and six cases from Indonesia,” MOH said.

“We cannot be complacent. Despite our best efforts at contact tracing and ring-fencing confirmed cases, we still see new cases every day, and increasingly, more imported cases,” Mr Gan said.

READ: 9 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore, including 2 who attended mass religious gathering in Malaysia

Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who travelled to Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days will be issued with a Stay-Home Notice.

Those issued with the notice will have to remain in their place of residence at all times for 14 days after returning to Singapore.

“All border restrictions are temporary, and will be reviewed regularly based on the global situation,” the health ministry said.

READ: Ticketed events with 250 participants or more to be deferred or cancelled under COVID-19 social-distancing measures: MOH

MOH press conference on Mar 13

From left to right: Medical services director at the Health Ministry Kenneth Mak, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong; at a press conference on Mar 13, 2020. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

READ: Singapore faces ‘serious situation’, needs to plan for spike in COVID-19 cases: PM Lee

STAY-HOME NOTICE FOR ALL VISITORS WITH SYMPTOMS

With immediate effect, all visitors entering Singapore with fever or symptoms of respiratory illness will also be issued with a 14-day Stay-Home Notice, regardless of their travel history. 

Such travellers were previously required to undergo a COVID-19 swab test before entering Singapore. If they refused to take the test, they would not be allowed to enter. 

“A swab test that is negative at the point of test may not be sufficient assurance because that person who is already exhibiting some symptoms – be it fever or respiratory symptoms – may be just going through the incubation stage of the virus,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce for COVID-19. 

“In doing this surveillance, we will pay particular attention to these countries where we have seen imported cases, and we want to be quite stringent about this,” he added.

Those who meet the clinical suspect case definition will be taken to a hospital for follow-up, MOH said. 

Singapore will also cease port calls for all cruise ships with immediate effect.

READ: Italy death toll jumps past 1,000 as Milan bourse nosedives

The ministry advised Singaporeans to defer “all non-essential travel” to Italy, France, Spain and Germany as well.

“The four countries have had very high numbers of cases and very high rates of increase,” MOH said. 

Italy, the worst-hit country outside China, on Thursday said the number of its COVID-19 cases has exceeded 15,000, with more than 1,000 dead. France, Spain and Germany have reported nearly 3,000 cases each.

Existing travel advisories to defer all travel to Hubei, where the coronavirus outbreak began, and non-essential travel to the rest of mainland China, Iran, Japan and South Korea remain, MOH said.

Singaporeans should also be cautious when travelling to other countries hit by the deadly virus, including Indonesia, Philippines and the UK, it said.

In February, Singapore expanded its ban from travellers who have visited Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, to all of mainland China.

Earlier this month, the ban was extended to visitors who travelled to Iran, northern Italy or South Korea within the last 14 days. 

“Even as we continue to tighten border controls, we know that it will not be tenable for us to close our borders to every affected country and region and shut ourselves out from the world,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

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