Authorities working with China to bring home Singaporeans in Wuhan

Authorities working with China to bring home Singaporeans in Wuhan

general view shows one of the roads blocked by the police to restrict people leaving Wuha
A general view shows one of the roads blocked by the police to restrict people leaving Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on Jan 25, 2020, during a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city. (Photo: AFP/Hector RETAMAL)

SINGAPORE: Authorities in Singapore are working with China to bring home citizens stuck in Wuhan after the city was locked down on Jan 23 to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary, who sits on a multi-ministry taskforce tackling the epidemic, said officials are in touch with Singaporeans who are currently in the city and are exploring options for repatriation, including with airline companies.

"We are working with both Chinese authorities as well as Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff to explore what can be done," he told reporters on Monday (Jan 27). "We will give updates when we have some clarity on the situation."

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When asked how far along the discussions were, Dr Janil said Singapore needed to go through the Chinese authorities and pointed to "difficulties" on the ground.

"We have to make sure that we don't add to their burden in terms of insisting on a particular position," he added.

Under the lockdown of Wuhan - the epicentre of a new SARS-like virus - transport such as trains, buses and passenger boats have been halted from leaving and entering the city, as those already on their way were ordered to return to their starting points.

READ: China death toll spikes to 80, more than 2,700 cases confirmed

Airlines, including Singapore Airlines’ budget arm Scoot, have also cancelled flights in and out of the city.

Reports out of Wuhan in central Hubei province have painted a picture of residents worried about food shortages, long queues for medical help and exposure to infection.

China has also locked down Hubei, affecting tens of millions of people and intended to slow transmission of the respiratory virus.

The ability of the virus to spread appears to be "getting stronger" though it is "not as powerful as SARS", top Chinese health officials said at a press conference.

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

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Source: CNA/nr(mn)

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