Singapore stops cruise visits as imported virus cases mount

The Costa Fortuna cruise ship docks at Marina Bay after it was rejected by Thailand and Malaysia. (AP pic)

SINGAPORE: Singapore said it will cease port calls for all cruise vessels with immediate effect, and bar the entry and transit of visitors with recent travel history to Italy, France, Spain and Germany, as coronavirus cases rise globally.

The temporary border restrictions for the European countries will come into effect from March 15, the health ministry said in a statement Friday. They will be reviewed regularly based on the global situation, it said.

Singaporeans were also advised to defer all non-essential travel to the four European countries as they “have had very high numbers of cases and very high rates of increase”, according to the government.

They should exercise caution when traveling to all countries affected by the outbreak, including Indonesia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom, it said.

Singapore’s move makes it at least the third country or territory in Asia to ban cruise ships from its ports, following Malaysia and Hong Kong that have closed their ports to all cruises.

A growing number of countries, from Thailand to Vietnam, continue to turn away cruise ships on a case-by-case basis on coronavirus concerns.

Here are the other measures Singapore is introducing to limit large crowds gathering in close proximity over a prolonged duration:

  • All ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events, with 250 participants or more, are to be deferred or canceled
  • Employers should implement tele-commuting and video-conferencing where possible, as well as stagger work hours and allow staff to commute at off-peak hours
  • Dining venues could set seats at least a meter apart; entertainment venues and tourist attractions such as casinos and theme parks could limit number of visitors at any one time

As of March 12, almost a quarter of the city-state’s total number of confirmed cases were imported. Of the 23 imported cases in the last ten days, 13 had travel history to Europe and six were from Indonesia, the government said.

In an address to the nation on Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while he expects more imported cases, the situation in Singapore remains under control.

He also assured citizens that the government wasn’t going to lock down the city but would take steps to help firms and workers weather the economic fallout from the outbreak.