SINGAPORE: In an effort to minimise the risk of community spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, new visitors of any nationality with recent travel history to mainland China will not be allowed to enter Singapore, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on Friday (Jan 31).
These visitors will also not be allowed to transit in Singapore, as part of restrictions that will come into effect at 11.59pm on Saturday.
Those with Chinese passports, with the exception of Singapore permanent residents (PRs) and long-term pass holders, will also not be allowed to enter Singapore.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will, with immediate effect, suspend the issuance of all forms of new visas to those with Chinese passports. Singapore's status as a visa-free transit facility will be suspended for Chinese passport holders.
Previously issued short-term and multiple-visit visas for those with Chinese passports will also be suspended. Those who hold such visas will not be allowed into Singapore during this period.
In a press release on Friday evening, the Manpower Ministry also announced that with immediate effect, it will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from mainland China until further notice. Renewal applications for existing work pass holders will not be affected.
Earlier this week, the restrictions only applied to new visitors who had recently travelled to China's Hubei province.
However, China recently announced that the number of reported infections in the country had doubled since Jan 28 to more than 9,000 and that the likelihood of widespread community transmission in other parts of China is now high.
"As a result, we are likely to see a sharper rise in the local transmission of the virus in Chinese cities beyond the Hubei province in the coming days," said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on Friday.
READ: Singaporean evacuated from Wuhan among country's 3 new cases of coronavirus, total now 16: MOH
At the briefing, Mr Wong also said that Singapore residents with recent travel history to mainland China will be issued a travel advisory and asked to take a 14-day leave of absence. These include Singapore citizens, PRs as well as those with long-term passes.
Commissioner of ICA Marvin Sim, who was at the briefing, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore will be disseminating the information to all airlines to ensure smooth implementation of the new measures.
Cabin crew who have to travel to China as part of their job will not be subject to the new measures, but in consultation with the Health Ministry, will have to take precautionary measures, he said. They will only be able to enter or transit if they are well, he added.
“These additional travel restrictions on top of all that we have already introduced over the past few days will enable us to limit the number of new cases here and to reduce the risk of community spread in Singapore,” said Mr Wong, who co-chairs a ministerial task force set up to deal with the coronavirus situation.
Responding to a question from the media, Mr Wong stressed that the restrictions are not nationality-based.
"It is not a nationality issue," he said. "The motivation is the origins of the virus and that beyond Hubei, the virus is now spreading to other parts of China - as we have said, there is assessment that this is happening."
When asked for a clarification that all Chinese passport holders who are not residents of Singapore will be barred from Singapore regardless of their previous travel, Mr Wong said:
"This is the policy because it is difficult to know your previous travel history."
At the operational level, there may be appeals," he added. The passport is being used as a "proxy", he said.
"I can imagine somebody may say 'I’m a passport holder, but I have not be in China all this while'. I think we can take that separate from the policy, and at the operational level, ICA will have to deal with these instances," he said.
Meanwhile, MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said there remains no evidence of community spread. Of those suspected of having the coronavirus, 164 of them have been ruled out while test results are still pending for 49 others.
“The situation remains fluid, it is constantly changing. We do not rule out taking further measures,” Mr Wong said.