Singapore cautions nationals vs traveling to Philippines

SINGAPORE – The Singaporean government cautioned its nationals on Friday, March 13, against traveling to the Philippines and other countries that have exported cases of the novel coronavirus to Singapore.

At least 4 Filipinos who tested positive for COVID-19 in Singapore recently traveled to the Philippines. One of them, who is linked to another coronavirus patient, is classified by Singapore as an imported case.

At least 7 of Singapore’s 187 coronavirus cases are Filipinos. (READ: Coronavirus sa Singapore: Tips para sa mga Pilipino)

This precaution against trips to the Philippines is not as strong as the city-state’s advisory to defer all non-essential trips to Italy, France, Spain, and Germany, but it reflects growing concern about imported coronavirus cases from Singapore’s neighbors. 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday, March 11, declared the novel coronavirus disease called COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Thursday night, March 12, that he was ruling out a lockdown of the city-state even as Singapore would tighten precautionary measures against COVID-19. 

“In light of the rapid spread of the virus across Europe, the Ministry of Health (MOH) advises Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Italy, France, Spain, and Germany,” the ministry said in a press release Friday. 

The ministry added that it maintained the earlier advisory to defer all travel to China’s Hubei province, from which the new coronavirus was said to have originated, and to defer non-essential travel to the rest of mainland China, Iran, Japan, and South Korea.

“Singaporeans are also advised to exercise caution when traveling to all countries affected by COVID-19, especially those which have exported cases. These include our neighboring countries, like Indonesia and the Philippines, and those further afield, like the United Kingdom. The global picture is evolving, and there could be other countries that may be affected,” said the MOH.

The MOH said that as of Friday, the following countries have exported coronavirus cases to Singapore: China, France, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Other measures implemented by Singapore include a ban on all new visitors with travel histories to Italy, France, Spain, and Germany within the last 14 days. The prohibition begins at 11:59 pm on Sunday, March 15, and covers visitors seeking to enter or transit through Singapore.

Social distancing

The Singaporean government also required the deferral or cancellation of all ticketed sports, cultural, and entertainment events that have 250 or more participants. 

If tickets had already been sold, “organizers must demonstrate that satisfactory precautionary measures have been put in place before they can proceed.”

For religious services and other private functions, Singapore has advised organizers, among other things, to “reduce the scale of events to below 250 participants where possible.”

Singapore also recommended that participants in such mass gatherings be seated one meter apart.

In line with the government’s precautionary measures, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Singapore, William Goh, on Thursday withdrew his earlier plan to resume Masses in Singapore. He cited the WHO’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic

Muslim authorities in Singapore also decided to close all mosques in the city-state for disinfection for 5 days starting Friday. This was after Singaporeans attended a mass event in Kuala Lumpur where a number of participants tested positive for COVID-19. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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