Singapore

Travellers with false declarations can be prosecuted: MOH

Severe penalties also await those who flout quarantine orders

Travellers coming to or transiting in Singapore who have been in Hubei within 14 days of arriving here are expected to declare their travel history.

And if they do not do so or make false declarations, they can be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) at a briefing yesterday where it announced an entry ban on travellers who have been in Hubei recently or who have a Chinese passport issued in Hubei.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that while it is crucial for travellers to be responsible, and while there may be irresponsible travellers who do not declare their travel history upfront, Singapore does not rely on declarations alone.

He said: "We have different, multiple layers of defence. We have medical teams deployed at the aerobridge to pick up passengers they see who are unwell. We have thermal scanners at the piers to detect and pick people up.

"And again at the immigration checkpoint, the ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) officer (who is) looking at them can check the passport history and what has been done.

"They can ask questions and get more information from these visitors."

MULTI-MINISTRY TASK FORCE

The minister also said that the multi-ministry task force set up to deal with the Wuhan virus is constantly evaluating the situation and will make changes as necessary.

He stressed that the decision to bar travellers from entering Singapore is not a knee-jerk reaction.

"It is something that we deliberated over. We looked at the data and evidence, and decided that there is sufficient evidence of a real risk to Singaporeans," Mr Wong said.

The MOH also stressed the importance of quarantine measures.

It said that anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time may be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches.

The ministry said that individuals can also opt for the option of home quarantine, should they have the facilities for it, such as having their own room and toilet facilities not shared with anyone else.

There will be checks, both over the phone and in person, to ensure that the restrictions are adhered to.

The Government will also provide some financial help by giving self-employed people $100 for each day they are quarantined.

If they are salaried workers, the money goes to their employers, as the quarantine period will not come from their annual leave.

If they are self-employed, the money will go directly to the individuals.

The authorities added that they will look at how they can further help the more vulnerable.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, told The New Paper he was not surprised at the introduction of a travel restriction, saying it was a matter of time because the virus was spreading so quickly.

He added: "A travel restriction for individuals coming in from Hubei will add another safeguard, as most of the cases worldwide have originated or passed through that region."

MEDICAL & HEALTH