Singapore, Mar 22 (PTI) Singapore will restrict short-term visitors from entering or transiting the country due to the heightened risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus as the city-state reported 47 new infections, including 39 imported cases, officials said on Sunday.
The restriction to all short-term visitors will come into effect from 11.59pm on Monday, said the Health Ministry as the total number of new cases reached 432 in the city-state.
Previously, except for a handful of countries, short-term visitors were allowed to enter Singapore, although they were to serve a 14-day stay-home notice once they entered the country.
At the same time, only work pass holders providing essential services, such as healthcare and transport, will be allowed by the Manpower Ministry to enter or return to Singapore. This will also include their dependents.
'In light of the rapidly escalating virus outbreak around the world, we have decided to significantly tighten our borders,' National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Sunday.
'These are very significant moves, especially for a small open economy like Singapore that has always been connected to the world,' the Channel News Asia quoted Wong as saying.
'This is an unprecedented crisis so we have deliberated over this carefully,' he added.
There were 432 cases of the deadly coronavirus in Singapore as of Saturday evening. Fourteen cases are in critical condition in the intensive care unit out of the 290 hospitalised patients. A total of 140 cases have fully recovered from the infection of the deadly virus, the officials said.
The new measures are needed to keep Singapore's borders safe, as well as to limit the number of new imported cases and conserve resources for returning Singaporeans,” said Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force tackling the outbreak in the city state of 5.6 million people.
Almost 80 per cent of Singapore's new COVID-19 infections over the past three days were imported cases with travel histories to 22 different countries, said the Health Ministry.
Most of them are Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who are returning home.
Meanwhile, the Singapore-Malaysia Special Working Committee has agreed that Malaysians with work permits will continue to be able to work in Singapore during this period, with appropriate accommodation arrangements, the Health Ministry said.
Transport of all types of goods between Malaysia and Singapore will also be facilitated. Malaysia is one of the main source of supplies to Singapore and some 300,000 from both countries cross the borders through a causeway and a bridge.
The latest restrictions come a day after Singapore confirmed its first deaths from the disease. Two patients – a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man – died from complications due to COVID-19 on Saturday morning.
Singapore has also rolled out a new ‘TraceTogether’ mobile application in a bid to speed up contact tracing efforts.
But the objective of keeping Singapore and Singaporeans safe 'cannot be achieved with Government measures alone,' said Wong.
Meanwhile, 89 foreigners, who are work pass holders, have been permanently banned from working in Singapore, the Manpower Ministry said.
They have had their passes revoked as of Saturday for breaching entry approval and stay-home notice requirements.
The Ministry has also suspended the work pass privileges of the employers for periods ranging from one to three years, as they had failed to discharge their duties to ensure that their employees comply with the Leave of Absence (LOA) or stay-home notice requirements.
Of the 89 work passes revoked, 73 work pass holders with travel history to COVID-19 affected countries and entered Singapore without obtaining entry approval from the ministry.
The remaining 16 work pass holders were caught breaching the LOA or stay-home notice requirements here.
Some work pass holders were caught working at their workplaces, while others were caught leaving their place of residence during the period of their LOA or stay-home notice, even when instructed not to do so, said the ministry.
The Manpower Ministry stressed that it will continue to take enforcement measures against errant employers or employees who do not comply with the requirements, including the revocation of work passes and suspension of work pass privileges.
According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, the death toll from the virus globally has risen to 13,044 with 307,104 cases reported in 171 countries and territories. PTI GS AMS