Singapore to block new visitors from Iran, northern Italy or South Korea

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Singapore will block entry for new visitors who travelled to Iran, northern Italy or South Korea within the last 14 days, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday, as he warned of “new spikes in COVID-19 cases in Singapore”.

Wong, who is co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on COVID-19, said the measure, which comes into effect today, was introduced amid a surge in the number of coronavirus cases around the world, particularly in these three locations.

With immediate effect, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will suspend the issuance of all forms of new visas to those with Iranian passports.

Previously issued short-term and multiple-visit visas for such travellers will also be suspended. They will not be allowed to enter Singapore during this period.

Travellers from Italy and South Korea do not require visas to visit Singapore.

In a press release, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced its expansion of the definition of suspect cases to include those with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness who have been to Iran, northern Italy, Japan and South Korea within 14 days before the onset of symptoms.

Cases meeting this definition will be referred to hospitals for further assessment.

Also starting today, travellers entering Singapore who exhibit fever and other symptoms of respiratory illness but do not meet the clinical suspect case definition may be required to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at the checkpoint. They may continue their journey immediately after undergoing the test, but while awaiting results – which may take between three and six hours – they are advised to minimise contact with others, said the MOH.

They will be contacted when the results are released and those with positive results will be taken to the hospital in a dedicated ambulance.

Those who do meet the suspect case definition will be taken straight to hospital.

Short-term visitors who are identified for testing but refuse to do so will not be allowed entry into Singapore, said the MOH.

Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities and work pass privileges revoked or validity shortened.

All travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with testing or cannot be contacted subsequently may face penalties and can be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act, said the ministry.

“The COVID-19 swab test kit deployed at checkpoints allows us to test beyond persons who are referred to hospitals, and extend testing to lower-risk asymptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure.

“This additional testing capability deployed upfront at checkpoints further increases our likelihood of detecting imported cases at the point of entry,” said MOH.

“As with any test, a negative result does not completely rule out the possibility of infection. As such, symptomatic travellers with a negative test results should continue to minimise social contact and seek medical attention should symptoms not improve over the next three days,” the MOH added.