SINGAPORE: Singapore will expand its screening for the Wuhan virus to its land and sea checkpoints, authorities said as they confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in the country.
"I think this is necessary given the rapidly escalating situation, and also the high volume of travel that we expect during the Chinese New Year period," said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Thursday (Jan 23).
Temperature screening at Changi Airport was expanded on Wednesday to include all travellers on flights arriving from China.
Starting Friday, travellers arriving at land and sea checkpoints such as at Woodlands, Tuas and Singapore's various ferry terminals will also have to undergo temperature screening.
Mr Wong acknowledged that this would cause some inconvenience to travellers, particularly at the country's land checkpoints, and said he sought people's understanding that such measures are necessary at this time.
He noted however that temperature screening is not foolproof.
"The virus has an incubation period and at the start of infection, you may be infected but you (may not) show symptoms at all," said Mr Wong.
"That's why we cannot rely solely on border checks alone. We need a system of multiple layers of defence," he said, noting a ministerial task force was formed to coordinate these efforts.
These "multiple layers" include clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the task force with Mr Wong.
"Our healthcare workers, who are at the frontline, they are a very important line of defence because they are the ones who will be able to detect cases in Singapore," Mr Gan said.
Everyone must also play their part by observing personal hygiene and being socially responsible, he said.
For example, people should wash hands frequently and if they are sick, wear a face mask, avoid social contact and visit a doctor as soon as possible.
"This is not only to protect yourself, but also to protect your loved ones," said Mr Gan.
"We are doing our part in the task force level to set up our overall posture, but every individual, every Singaporean, must do their part to be part of our system of total defence," said Mr Wong.
The task force will issue information as soon as it is verified, he added.
Mr Wong urged people not to spread rumours or unverified information, and to carry on with their lives as normal, while remaining vigilant.
"Chinese New Year is coming, by all means, continue with your Chinese New Year celebrations and Chinese New Year visits. But stay alert, stay vigilant and don't let your guard down."
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