Wuhan virus: Measures, advisories and info from Singapore ministries

One of the warehouses with masks stockpile in Singapore, which Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min checked on during the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. (PHOTO: Lam Pin Min/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — Various Singapore ministries, statutory boards and hospitals have been implementing measures to reduce the risk of infection and heighten surveillance amid the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

In addition, ministers and members of parliament have been posting information and advisories on their Facebook pages.

Here are some of the key measures, advisories and information shared by the Singapore government:

Masks stockpile sufficient if used ‘sensibly’

Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min posted on Facebook images of his visit on Tuesday (28 January) to one of the warehouses where the face masks are stockpiled.

He wrote on his Facebook post that there is sufficient supply of masks in Singapore “if we use them sensibly and responsibly”.

“There is no need to rush to buy masks. We are working with retailers like NTUC FairPrice and Unity Pharmacy to push out the stocks,” he added.

Lam said that retailer are rationing the sale of masks in packages with smaller quantity, to ensure there is adequate supply for Singaporeans and to prevent unnecessary hoarding.

He added that the government is working with retailers to manager pricing and reminding them not to profiteer from the increased demand.

Hospitals limit visitors to wards, A&E departments

Hospitals in Singapore are limiting the number of visitors and imposing visiting restrictions in order to reduce the risk of infection from the Wuhan virus.

Most of the hospitals have imposed a limit of only two visitors per patient during their visiting hours.

In addition, the Singapore General Hospital has limited the number of companions to patients in its emergency department to just one.

“We are seeing more patients than usual at our emergency department. Priority will be given to those who are critically ill. The waiting time for other patients will be longer,” it added in an advisory on its website.

Meanwhile, Changi General Hospital will require visitors to wear masks when visiting its wards and A&E department.

Visitors who have recent travel history to China are not allowed on its premises, even if they display no ill symptoms. It is also restricting access to all unwell visitors even if they do not have recent travel history to China. The hospital has also strongly discouraged children from visiting.

The National University Hospital has also banned children under the age of 12 years old from visiting its wards, due to their relatively low immunity. Visitors and caregivers are also required to register daily, and declare their health status and travel history.

Mindef, MHA enhance protection on servicemen

The Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs have issued a joint advisory on Tuesday on enhanced protection on servicemen within the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Home Team.

All non-essential travel for SAF and Home Team personnel to mainland China will be deferred. For pre-enlistees who have travelled to China, a mandatory leave of absence for up to 14 days will be applied if they are due for enlistment.

For NSmen who have travelled to China, deferment will be applied if they are due for in-camp training (ICT). Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) and Health Screening Programme (HSP) appointments will also be rescheduled.

For those currently in service and who have travelled to China, precautionary measures based on Ministry of Manpower's guidelines will apply to those returning to work. These include having them monitor their health closely for two weeks upon return to Singapore and seeking medical attention promptly if they feel unwell.

Information on how pre-enlistees and NSmen can make their declarations and submit documentary proof of travel will be available on NS Portal. They may also follow the instructions in the SMS that will be sent to them prior to their enlistment, ICT, IPPT or HSP.

Rumours on quarantine allowance debunked

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong has put up a Facebook post on Tuesday (28 January) debunking rumours that the quarantine allowance is given to affected tourists.

The $100-a-day quarantine allowance is a scheme set up during the 2003 SARS outbreak to assist Singapore-based businesses with employees, as well as self-employed Singapore citizens and permanent residents. After completing the quarantine order, the self-employed person or the employer can apply to Ministry of Health for the allowance within three months.

“It is regrettable that some people are circulating falsehoods on this,” Wong wrote on his Facebook post.

“Quarantine allowance is not new. We did it for SARS too. It’s given to Singapore-based employers to cover their employees under quarantine and to self-employed Singaporeans/PRs under quarantine. It’s not given to tourists who are quarantined.

“Our whole point is to help Singaporeans. Please help to share this and correct any misperceptions or falsehoods.”

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also set up a special Wuhan virus page on its website, advising employers on adopting measures to protect and assist their employees in their line of work.

Facebook messages from President, DPM, Defence Minister

President Halimah Yacob and Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat have both posted on their Facebook pages, urging Singaporeans to help fight the virus outbreak together.

President Halimah said in her Facebook post that Singaporeans should remain level-headed and calm, and not spread “falsehoods, misperceptions and rumours which will cause confusion, panic and anger”.

“Our hospitals and healthcare staff are under tremendous pressure to prepare themselves in the event the situation worsens. But they can only do so much without the support of our people in this effort to keep everyone safe,” she wrote.

“The social media is so much more pervasive this time compared to the 2003 SARS outbreak, and the potential for spreading mischief, distortions and untruths is tremendous.

“We can fight this virus together and overcome it but we must remain level headed and calm and, most importantly, do our part too. We have the experience of battling with SARS and we are prepared.”

DPM Heng also wrote on his Facebook page that Singaporeans should “stay calm, stay healthy, look out for one another, and continue to keep Singapore going”.

“I encourage all of us to play our part by maintaining good personal hygiene and being socially responsible. See the doctor immediately if you are unwell. There is generally no need to wear a mask if you are well,” he wrote.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen paid tribute to the frontline medical staff in a Facebook post on Tuesday, commending the doctors, nurses, healthcare and other personnel who “put themselves at risk” as they perform surveillance at airports or receive and treat suspected and infected patients at hospitals.

“While the rest of Singaporeans hope to keep away from those infected, these people have, out of duty, come up close and personal with a potentially debilitating and even deadly virus,” he wrote.

“They shoulder great burdens because they too are concerned that they could get infected and pass it on to their families. Nevertheless, they carry out their tasks with great professionalism and personal sacrifice. To these wonderful persons, we offer our thanks and great admiration, knowing that the months ahead will be trying ones.”

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