Killer virus keeping 20,000 tourists a day away from Singapore

City-state is mulling another round of aid for businesses. (AP pic)

SINGAPORE: Singapore is bracing for a harder hit to tourism than initially expected from the coronavirus as the outbreak spreads to more than 100 countries, impacting global travel plans, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said.

“Now it’s really the fact that there’s a global spread of this virus and therefore we will have to reevaluate certainly the numbers,” Iswaran said in an interview Wednesday.

Just last month, Singapore’s tourism chief forecast that tourist arrivals and spending could drop by 25% to 30% this year because of the outbreak, making it worse than the 2003 SARS pandemic.

The city-state is losing about 18,000 to 20,000 tourists a day and that could plummet further if the situation persists, Keith Tan, chief executive officer of Singapore Tourism Board, said in mid-February.

With the economic fallout expected to grow, Singapore is already mulling another round of aid for businesses.

Unveiling its 2020 budget last month, the government pledged S$6.4 billion in dedicated support, including a S$4 billion stabilisation package.

A second support package may be introduced if necessary, local media has reported, citing Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. Singapore isn’t ruling out tapping its past reserves for that purpose, the Business Times reported, citing Heng.

Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, declined to elaborate when asked about the scale of any second support package on Wednesday.

“We are prepared to do more, but it has to be a response to the situation,” he said.