SINGAPORE: Three hostels in autonomous universities will be used as quarantine facilities in Singapore as authorities prepare for an increase in suspected cases of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters on Monday (Jan 27) that a hostel each from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) are being cleaned up before being repurposed into government quarantine facilities.
The hostels are NUS' Prince George's Park Residences, NTU's Graduate Hall 1 and SMU's 83 Prinsep Street. Mr Ong said most students - including foreigners - affected will be transferred to other hostels on campus.
Local students at the affected hostel in SMU will be asked to stay home as the university does not have enough hostel facilities, he said. "SMU is in the city centre, so I hope it will not pose too much of an inconvenience," he added.
"I apologise to students for the inconvenience, I seek their understanding. This is part of the national response," he continued. "We hope it won't happen, but should there be more contact tracing and confirmed cases, then we will need the facilities. So, it is better now before it happens that we get the facilities ready."
Mr Ong said there will be a "few more" hostels affected, adding that the Ministry of Education will provide details on this separately. Mr Ong said he does not have figures on how many students will be affected by this move.
The new coronavirus, which originated in China’s Wuhan, has killed more than 80 people and infected thousands.
A handful of cases have been reported outside China, including four in Singapore.
Singapore authorities have prepared facilities like chalets as quarantine centres as it fights the spread of the virus. Sixty-six individuals who have been in close contact with the four confirmed cases have been quarantined at home, in hospitals, the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and in some government quarantine facilities.
When asked about the capacity of the hostels as quarantine facilities, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said he doesn't think "it's a question of what numbers we have today".
"We have contingency plans, we are already activating some to be on standby and we will activate more," he added. "We will ensure whatever it takes, if the numbers go up, we will have sufficient quarantine facilities to contain the situation."
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