Novel coronavirus: 524 people under quarantine in Singapore, says Lawrence Wong

Novel coronavirus: 524 people under quarantine in Singapore, says Lawrence Wong

A total of 524 people were under quarantine in Singapore as of Sunday (Feb 2) night, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday.  Of those, 60 per cent or 302 people were under quarantine at home, while the remaining 222 were in government quarantine facilities (GQF), he said in a ministerial statement. Deborah Wong reports.

SINGAPORE: A total of 524 people were under quarantine in Singapore as of Sunday (Feb 2) night, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday.

Of those, 60 per cent or 302 people were under quarantine at home, while the remaining 222 were in government quarantine facilities (GQF), he said in a ministerial statement.

GQFs include government-linked chalets, university hostels and Singapore Armed Forces premises.

They are used to house people who have had close contact with confirmed cases of the virus and recent travellers from Hubei.

READ: Outward Bound Singapore camps on Pulau Ubin to be used as quarantine facility

"Persons under quarantine are required to stay in their designated location at all times during the quarantine period," said Mr Wong. "They cannot physically interact with others living in the same premise."

The new coronavirus, which originated in China’s Wuhan, has killed more than 360 people and infected more than 17,000.

There have been 18 confirmed cases in Singapore, all with recent travel history to Hubei province, where virus epicentre Wuhan is located.

Beyond the confirmed cases, 240 suspect cases have tested negative for the virus, with test results pending for another 43 suspect cases.


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

Mr Wong said the quarantine and leave of absence (LOA) measures help to reduce the risk of community spread and protect Singaporeans from the spread of the virus.

For quarantine cases, Mr Wong said that authorities will assess whether the person should be quarantined at home or GQFs depending how suitable the home is.

"We would use video calls, phone calls and regular spot checks to ensure that they remain in their assigned quarantine location," he said.

"These are protocols that we have worked out through SARS and fine-tuned over the years."

Mr Wong added that there are severe penalties for non-compliance of the quarantine order, including fines or jail time.

READ: Wuhan coronavirus - Singapore to widen travel restrictions to all new visitors who recently travelled to mainland China

As for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders on the 14-day LOA after returning from other parts of China, Mr Wong said they are expected to remain in their residence "as much as possible".

They should also minimise visitors and maintain a record of persons they come into close contact with, he said.

"They also need to minimise time spent in public places and contact with others, monitor their health and temperature daily, and avoid crowded places or social gatherings," he added.

"They may resume normal activities only after they have served their LOA, if they remain well."

READ: Compulsory leave of absence for students, teachers returning from China: MOE

Despite these measures, Mr Wong said he's received feedback that some residents, after learning of a home quarantine or LOA case in the same apartment block, have asked that the person be moved elsewhere.

There have also been reports of landlords stigmatising tenants based on their nationality, or evicting Chinese national tenants on LOA, he said.

"I can appreciate that Singaporeans are very concerned about the well-being of themselves and their family members, but if landlords start turning tenants away, then our overall containment efforts will be much harder, and we end up endangering ourselves and others," said Mr Wong.

"The outcome will be completely counter-productive. So we should not condone such irresponsible actions which will put Singapore and Singaporeans at greater risk. 

"In such difficult times, we should not let our fears overwhelm us and cause us to overreact. Instead let us support each other and look out for one another, so that we can all get through this together."

Source: CNA/hz(aj)

Bookmark