Singapore insists SE Asian travellers must self-isolate for 2 weeks

Passengers of the Costa Fortuna cruise ship waiting to board buses at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre on March 10. (AP pic)

SINGAPORE: All arrivals to Singapore from the Asean nations as well as Japan, Switzerland and UK will have to self-isolate for two weeks in the city-state’s latest measure to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The only exception will be to Singapore’s land and sea border crossings with Malaysia due to the special relationship between the two nations, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at a press briefing Sunday.

About 300,000 people travel across the land checkpoints each day, he said.

Those who come to the city-state will have to provide proof of where they are staying and may be tested for the coronavirus, even if they do not show any symptoms, the health ministry said in a statement.

The move comes after Singapore’s Covid-19 infections reached 212 on Saturday, even as the island nation has yet to report a death from the infection.

More than three-quarters of cases in the last three days involved those who had recently travelled abroad with the large majority involving residents in the country, according to the health ministry.

A number of people have also come to Singapore from Asean nations with the explicit intent of seeking medical care, Wong said.

Tourism between the Asean nations is likely to take a hit from the city-state’s measures.

In another travel measure, any passenger who enters Singapore showing a fever or other respiratory symptom will be tested for the coronavirus and will have to self-isolate for 14 days, even if the test result comes back negative.

Wong called out the UK and Switzerland and accused the countries of effectively not trying to combat the virus.

“These countries have abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus,” he said. “If there’s no attempt to contain, we estimate the number of cases in these countries to rise significantly in the coming days and weeks.”

He also said that it’s difficult to predict when Singapore will hit a peak because it depends on how other countries respond following the first wave of cases.

“Some of these countries have already given up on containment,” he said.

The country’s new travel restrictions will be reviewed in a month, when the measures may be extended. Singaporeans are advised to defer any and all non-essential travel abroad in the next 30 days, the health ministry said.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned the economic fallout from the pandemic could be more serious than the damage done by the 2008 global financial crisis for Singapore.

Covid-19 infection cases have crossed 150,000 globally, with deaths above 5,700 even as the situation in China and South Korea – the worst-affected – indicated improvement.