SINGAPORE: Less than 1 per cent of total arrivals into Singapore since April last year have tested positive for COVID-19, Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon said on Tuesday (Feb 16).
Most of the arrivals during this period were from Malaysia, mainland China, Indonesia and India. The proportion of imported cases out of the arrivals from each of these countries and regions was 0.04 per cent, 0.01 per cent, 1.6 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.
Dr Koh was responding to Member of Parliament (MP) Gan Thiam Poh (PAP-Ang Mo Kio) who had asked for the percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases for each country in relation to total arrivals from those countries.
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai asked why Singapore had not closed its borders to travellers from India and Indonesia, given the “disproportionately” large number of imported cases coming from these two countries.
In response, Dr Koh said international connectivity was “critical” to the country’s economy and survival.
“Singapore can ill afford to close ourselves off fully from the rest of the world,” he said.
He noted that Singapore needed a continued inflow of migrant workers to support key economic sectors, including construction workers to build homes and critical infrastructure, and foreign domestic workers (FDWs) to support the caregiving needs of families.
“Many of such workers are from India and Indonesia. If we close our borders to them, many Singaporeans will not be getting the keys to their homes, many households will have their FDWs delayed and will need to find alternative care arrangements for their loved ones, our economy will slow down and the lives and livelihoods of many will be impacted,” he said.
He added that some of the travellers were Singaporean citizens and permanent residents, or their close relatives here to visit them.
“Therefore, we need to adopt a risk management approach to the inflow of these travellers rather than to close the borders to them entirely,” Dr Koh said. He added that the migrant workers and visitors were subject to a set of stringent precautionary measures to keep the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to the community as low as possible.
These include pre-departure and on-arrival tests and a 14-day stay-home notice at dedicated facilities with another test before the end of the notice period.
In addition, all newly arrived work permit and S Pass workers in the construction, marine and process sectors are subject to an additional seven-day isolation and testing regime at a designated facility following their 14-day stay-home notice. Along with other foreign workers such as those who in dormitories and in the aviation industry, these workers also have to undergo rostered routine testing at least every 14 days.
READ: Extra COVID-19 testing for all newly arrived foreign workers in construction, marine, process sectors
“As the global situation evolves, the Multi-Ministry Task Force will continue to review our border control measures to strike a balance between public health considerations and the needs of our society and economy,” Dr Koh said.
COVID-19 INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR FOREIGNERS
Mr Gan also asked whether the Ministry would require all foreigners arriving in Singapore to procure travel insurance, including hospitalisation insurance for coverage of COVID-19.
In response, Dr Koh said that from January this year, all work permit and S Pass holders have been required to have medical insurance to pay for COVID-19 medical treatment and hospitalisation costs in Singapore should the pass holder develop symptoms or test positive within the first 14 days of arrival into Singapore.
“As employers of work permit and S Pass holders are responsible for their medical treatment in Singapore, this requirement helps protect employers against medical expenses,” he said.
Dr Koh added that from the beginning of this month, all short-term visitors applying to enter Singapore under the Air Travel Pass and reciprocal green lanes have had to purchase travel insurance for their COVID-19-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs in Singapore.
“The Government will review whether to extend the insurance requirement to other travellers, taking into consideration the COVID-19 situation in their country of origin as well as the availability of products in the insurance market,” Dr Koh said.