Novel coronavirus: 524 people under quarantine in Singapore

SINGAPORE (CNA) – A total of 524 people were under quarantine in Singapore as of Sunday night, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament yesterday.

Of those, 60 per cent or 302 people were under quarantine at home, while the remaining 222 were in government quarantine facilities (GQF), he said in a ministerial statement.

GQFs include government-linked chalets, university hostels and Singapore Armed Forces premises.

They are used to house people who have had close contact with confirmed cases of the virus and recent travellers from Hubei.

“Persons under quarantine are required to stay in their designated location at all times during the quarantine period,” said Wong. “They cannot physically interact with others living in the same premises.”

Singapore’s National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. PHOTO: CNA

The new coronavirus, which originated in China’s Wuhan, has killed more than 360 people and infected more than 17,000.

There have been 18 confirmed cases in Singapore, all with recent travel history to Hubei province, where the virus epicentre Wuhan is located.

Beyond the confirmed cases, 240 suspect cases have tested negative for the virus, with test results pending for another 43 suspect cases.

Wong said the quarantine and leave of absence (LOA) measures help to reduce the risk of community spread and protect Singaporeans from the spread of the virus.

For quarantine cases, Wong said that authorities will assess whether the person should be quarantined at home or GQFs depending how suitable the home is. “We would use video calls, phone calls and regular spot checks to ensure that they remain in their assigned quarantine location,” he said.

“These are protocols that we have worked out through SARS and fine-tuned over the years.”

Wong added that there are severe penalties for non-compliance of the quarantine order, including fines or jail time.

As for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders on the 14-day LOA after returning from other parts of China, Wong said they are expected to remain in their residence “as much as possible”.

They should also minimise visitors and maintain a record of persons they come into close contact with, he said.

“They also need to minimise time spent in public places and contact with others, monitor their health and temperature daily, and avoid crowded places or social gatherings,” he added.

“They may resume normal activities only after they have served their LOA, if they remain well.”

Despite these measures, Wong said he’s received feedback that some residents, after learning of a home quarantine or LOA case in the same apartment block, have asked that the person be moved elsewhere.

There have also been reports of landlords stigmatising tenants based on their nationality, or evicting Chinese national tenants on LOA, he said.

“I can appreciate that Singaporeans are very concerned about their well-being and their family members, but if landlords start turning tenants away, then our overall containment efforts will be much harder, and we end up endangering ourselves and others,” said Wong.