We will not leave any overseas Singaporean behind: Vivian Balakrishnan on fight against coronavirus

We will not leave any overseas Singaporean behind: Vivian Balakrishnan on fight against coronavirus

vivian feb parl
Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan speaking in Parliament on Monday (Feb 3). 

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will not leave any overseas Singapore citizen behind, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 360 people and infected more than 17,000, mostly in China.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday (Feb 3), Dr Balakrishnan said that China has been “very responsible and very responsive” and is taking the necessary measures to look after Singaporeans who are still there.

At the same time, the Singapore Government is also in touch with its citizens who are still there, and will do its best to ensure they have all the necessary treatment in Wuhan or in other places in China.

"If additional support is needed, obviously we will look at that,” he said.

READ: Every Singaporean must play their part in fight against coronavirus: Lawrence Wong

Responding to questions from Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Wee Kiak, he also appealed to all Singaporeans in China to e-register with MFA. 

“This enables us to stay in close touch with them to monitor their condition to give them appropriate advice and recommendations,” said Dr Balakrishnan. 

“And obviously, if there’s a possibility or a need to mount further operations, this ability to communicate quickly and effectively is absolutely necessary.”

Echoing Health Minister Gan Kim Yong’s comments in his ministerial statement earlier, Dr Balakrishnan stressed that the novel coronavirus “is not just China’s problem”. 

“This is a common threat confronting all of us. This virus does not respect passports or nationalities, race or language, and that’s why we must all cooperate and collaborate to resolve this problem together,” Dr Balakrishnan said. 

“I commit that we will continue to work closely with the Chinese authorities and any way in which we can help them is also helping all of us collectively.”

READ: No new cases of Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore, total remains at 18: MOH

Earlier in the session, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who is also co-chair of a multi-ministry taskforce set up to fight the spread of the virus, responded to questions from MP Alex Yam on the remaining Singaporeans in China and whether there are plans to bring them back. 

Ninety-two Singaporeans were flown home from Wuhan on Jan 30. Four others were unable to return because they had shown symptoms and were deemed unfit to fly, with one out of the four already hospitalised, said Mr Wong. 

Adding that there are about 140 Singaporeans still in Wuhan, Mr Wong said that most of those individuals have spouses who may not be Singaporean, so they have either chosen to remain in China for now, or arrangements to bring them back are still being worked out. 

“We are still in touch with the Chinese authorities to see what else can be done for the group of people who wish to come back, and we are also in touch with the Singaporeans directly,” said Mr Wong. 

“On whether there are any Singaporeans outside of Hubei who have caught or been infected with the virus, we do not know of anyone at this point in time.”

READ: Singapore preparing various contingencies as outbreak of novel coronavirus evolves: Gan Kim Yong

In closing, Dr Balakrishnan said that he was confident that because of Singapore’s experience with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus 17 years ago, Singaporeans “will demonstrate the best of humanity” in fighting the virus. 

“We can get through this and we can get through this together. So rest assured that all Singaporeans that are overseas, we will not leave anyone behind. We will look out for you.”

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Source: CNA/hw(aj)

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