SINGAPORE (UPDATED) – A 9-year-old boy who recently visited the Philippines is the 15th Filipino to test positive for the novel coronavirus in Singapore, the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday evening, March 24.
Singapore classified the 9-year-old boy as an imported case, which means he likely contracted the coronavirus overseas. His most recent travel history was to the Philippines.
Identified only as Case 523, the boy is a long-term pass holder in Singapore. He tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Monday, March 23. He is now confined at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital here.
The MOH said the boy is a family member of Case 394, a 66-year-old Filipina long-term pass holder who is also classified as an imported case.
The 9-year-old Filipino is among the 49 new coronavirus cases in Singapore on Tuesday. Of this number, 32 are classified as imported while 17 are local.
Singapore has had 558 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. Of this number, 155 patients have recovered, 17 remain in critical condition, and two have died. Most are stable or improving in the hospital.
The Philippines is one of the countries that have exported coronavirus cases to Singapore, which is now battling a surge in imported coronavirus cases.
The rise in imported cases in recent days, mostly from the United Kingdom and the United States, have prompted Singapore to tighten its border restrictions and physical distancing measures. One of these is the ban on all tourists and transit passengers starting 11:59 pm Monday.
On Tuesday, Singapore also published its strictest measures yet to ensure physical distancing to fight the pandemic. These measures will be in effect from 11:59 pm on Friday, March 26, until April 30, but Singapore said it might extend the effectivity if the coronavirus situation fails to improve.
These measures include the following:
- closure of all bars and entertainment venues such as discos, night clubs, cinemas, karaoke outlets, and theaters
- ban on groups of more than 10 persons, including diners, in public venues such as malls, museums, and other attractions
- required one-meter spacing between patrons in queues or waiting areas
- required one-meter spacing between tables or groups of diners in food and beverage outlets, even as related diners such as family members or couples can sit together at one table
- suspension of organized tours in public venues
Singapore on Tuesday also suspended all religious services in the country. The Roman Catholic Church in Singapore had earlier voluntarily suspended Masses starting February 15 due to the coronavirus.
Measures vs traveling Singaporeans
Singapore is also cracking down on Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who continue to travel abroad despite government warnings.
The MOH warned: “Any Singapore resident or long-term pass holder who leaves Singapore from March 27, 2020, in disregard of the prevailing travel advisories, will be charged at unsubsidized rates for their inpatient stay at public hospitals, if they are admitted for suspected COVID-19 and have onset of symptoms within 14 days of returning to Singapore. Singapore residents will also not be able to claim from MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plans for these treatments at public and private hospitals.”
At the same time, “any work pass holder or his/her dependent who leaves Singapore from March 27, 2020, will be deprioritized for entry approval and could see significant delays before they are allowed to return to Singapore if they persist in traveling abroad and return infected.”
As for Singaporean residents, many of them students, returning from the US or the UK, the Singaporean government is requiring them to stay indoors for 14 days in designated hotels. These returning residents will receive a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN) from the Singaporean government, under which they will be penalized if they leave their hotels within these 14 days.
“To prevent potential spread of infection from the UK and US returnees to their family members, we will work with hotel operators to provide dedicated facilities for the returnees to serve their 14-day SHN. Transportation will be arranged to send the returnees directly from the airport to the hotels. Each will have their own room/toilet, and will be provided all their meals, so that they may avoid physical contact with other individuals. These SHN requirements will be strictly enforced so as to reduce the risk of community transmission from imported cases,” said the MOH.
Singapore has not imposed a lockdown unlike other countries, but warned that it might have to implement more drastic measures if the coronavirus situation here does not improve.
“Many countries have imposed total lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. Such lockdowns have significantly disrupted lives and economies throughout the world, but were deemed necessary to ease the strain on health care systems in those countries,” said the MOH.“We therefore cannot afford to be complacent in Singapore. We must implement tighter safe distancing measures now to minimize activities and exposure, so as to significantly reduce the risks of seeding new local clusters. For safe distancing to be effective, all Singaporeans must take it seriously and do their part. Otherwise, we will need more drastic measures later,” the ministry added. – Rappler.com