First things first: what is the Wuhan virus?
Wuhan virus, also known as 2019-nCoV, is a type of coronavirus that causes pneumonia in its victims.
Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, cough and breathing difficulties. The virus has been found to be asymptomatic, which means although a person may not be displaying the symptoms, they can also infect others. The incubation period varies according to individuals, ranging between one and 14 days.
To date, it has infected 7,711 people, mostly from China, and has resulted in 170 deaths (updated figures as of Jan 30, 9.20am). In comparison, Sars infected 5,327 people in China and resulted in 349 deaths.
It was first thought to have stemmed from a seafood market in Wuhan.
China first alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the outbreak on December 31, 2019. The following day, the seafood market was closed down.
China recorded its first death from the virus on January 11. A few days later, China’s health commission said no human-to-human transmission has been confirmed, but didn’t rule the possibility. On Jan 20, it was confirmed that human-to-human transmission was possible.
On Jan 23, Wuhan, and later more than 20 cities in Hubei, were placed in a lockdown—which means the residents and visitors could not leave or enter the cities.
The government subsequently banned wildlife markets temporarily following the spread of the virus.
The virus, which is suspected to have been passed from animals to humans, was initially thought to have originated from bats or snakes in the seafood market, but recent research showed that 13 out of the first 41 hospitalised cases had no link to the market.
Currently, there is no cure for the virus. While pharmaceutical companies are working on developing vaccine for the virus, experts say it might take years.
Meanwhile, Dr Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China’s National Health Commission, told the official Xinhua news agency that the virus might peak in 10 days.
Here’s what’s happening in Singapore.
Singapore is on Orange alert now
Singapore moved its disease outbreak response up a level to Orange on Friday (Feb 7) as the coronavirus spread further within the country, with three new cases announced of unknown origin, including a junior college teacher.
The emphasis will now be on “aggressively trying to stop or limit further spread”, according to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) pandemic readiness and preparedness plan. Code Orange is one step below Red, which signifies an out-of-control pandemic.
There are 33 confirmed cases now
The first case in Singapore was confirmed on January 23. Over the past week, more cases were confirmed and on February 1, the government confirmed two new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Singapore, bringing the total confirmed cases to 18. Sixteen of the cases are Chinese nationals from Wuhan, while two are Singaporeans who were recently evacuated from Wuhan. They were asymptomatic before the flight and were found to have developed a fever upon arrival at Changi Airport.
Since then, there has been new cases, including locally-transmitted cases. The locally-transmitted cases involve two people who work at a shop that a tour group of China had went two, and a tour guide for the group. A domestic helper of one of the cases was also tested positive. A six-month-old baby, the child of one of the workers of the shop, was also found to be infected.
At time of writing, there are four locally-transmitted cases with no history of travel to China and no links to previous cases. This brings the total to 33.
Image: ST Photo / Kevin Lim
15 travellers denied entry into Singapore
Fifteen travellers have been refused entry into Singapore in the 13 hours since travel restrictions on those who with recent travel history to China kicked in late on Saturday (Feb 1).
The restrictions took effect at 2359pm on Saturday, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that 15 have been rejected as of 1pm on Sunday.
“They comprise one Spanish, one British, one Malaysian, two US, five PRC and five Indian passport holders, due to either their travel histories to mainland China in the last 14 days, or suspension of visa facilities,” ICA said.
Image: ST Photo / Desmond Foo
About 30,000 Chinese work pass holders who haven’t returned to Singapore will be required to go on a 14-day leave of absence
About 30,000 work pass holders who are of Chinese nationality left Singapore over the Chinese New Year break and have not returned, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Sunday (Feb 2).
These workers, who would be required to go on a 14-day leave of absence when they return to Singapore, make up less than 1 per cent of the work force here, said Mrs Teo.
The figure does not include Singaporeans who have recently travelled to China who will also need to go on a leave of absence when they return. They can go back to school or work only after 14 days, provided they are well.
Image: ST Photo / Desmond Wee
About 2,000 people will be quarantined
Apart from people who have been in close contacts with the confirmed cases, the quarantine order also applies to people who were in Hubei in the past fortnight and deemed to be a risk, those who carry passports issued there, and residents and long-term pass holders returning from Hubei.
Quarantine is far more stringent than leave of absence as it comes under the Infectious Diseases Act. Anyone flouting the quarantine for the first time may be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to six months, or both. The penalty is higher for subsequent breaches.
Image: ST Photo / Jason Quah
There will be temperature screenings for all arriving passengers
Temperature screening measures at airports will cover travellers on all flights into Singapore by today (Jan 29), it was announced on Monday.
Screening had previously covered only travellers on planes from China.
Changi handles more than 500 arrival flights daily.
The enhanced measures to protect Singapore against the Wuhan virus were announced at a press conference, which was attended by several fourth-generation ministers.
Special attention will go to passengers from China, with newly assigned healthcare teams stationed nearby as they alight from these flights, said members of a multi-ministry task force chaired by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
The health teams will conduct visual checks, looking for signs of illness such as coughs or runny noses as some passengers may be ill but not have a fever.
Those who are unwell will be referred to nursing stations set up at the airport.
Temperature screening has been in place at all of Singapore’s land and sea checkpoints since Friday morning.
Singapore will no longer grant entry to those from Hubei for now
From noon today (Jan 29), there will be no entry or transit through Singapore for all new visitors with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days, or holders of China passports issued in Hubei. With immediate effect, those with China passports issued in Hubei will have a suspension of issuance of all forms of new visas, previously issued short-term visit passes and multiple-visit visas, and visa-free transit facility.
MOM will reject new work pass applications from Hubei for now
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from the Chinese province of Hubei with immediate effect, until further notice.
The ministry said in a statement yesterday (Jan 28) that this was one of several measures it is implementing on all foreign workers from Hubei to help Singapore contain the spread of the Wuhan virus.
MOM said that it has rejected more than 30 new work pass applications as of Tuesday.
The renewal applications for existing work pass workers from Hubei will not be affected by the move.
These measures by MOM follow new restrictions the Government announced earlier in the day, such as no entry or transit for travellers with passports issued in Hubei or those who have travelled there recently.
As for existing work pass holders from Hubei who are currently away or have travelled to Hubei within the last 14 days, they should delay their return to Singapore.
Enough masks available, no need to rush: Lam Pin Min
There are enough masks available if people use them sensibly and responsibly, Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min has said.
“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 said in a Facebook post yesterday after visiting a warehouse with FairPrice Group chief executive Seah Kian Peng to check on the stockpile.
Dr Lam said some retailers have started to ration the sale of masks “to ensure there is adequate supply for Singaporeans and to prevent unnecessary hoarding”.
And in case you’re wondering how to wear a mask properly, follow these steps:
- Place the blue side outwards (despite claims that you should wear the white side out, there is only one way to wear a mask, that is with the blue side out)
- The wired part should be on top. Pinch the wire so it fits on your nose bridge.
- Place the elastic bands around your ears, then pull the folds down to cover your chin.
- Minimise talking with your mask on as the moisture can reduce its lifespan.
Visit this link to find out when you really need to wear a mask.
Image: ST Photo / Desmond Wee
Miriam Yeung’s concert in Singapore postponed
Hong Kong singer Miriam Yeung’s upcoming concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium has been postponed as a result of the Wuhan virus outbreak in China.
A new show date has not been set and patrons who have already bought tickets will be given a full refund.
The show was originally slated to take place on Feb 8 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
In a statement released on Tuesday (Jan 28), the concert’s co-promoter, Live Nation Singapore, said that all concert production equipment and machinery were supposed to be freighted in from China and set up by the Chinese team.
It added: “Due to the current freight and travel conditions in China, it is not possible to complete the staging according to production requirements. Once again, we apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your understanding.”
Image: Live Nation
Taeyeon, NCT Dream and GOT7’s concerts postponed
One Production, the organiser behind TAEYEON CONCERT-THE UNSEEN-IN SINGAPORE (Feb 1), NCT DREAM TOUR ‘THE DREAM SHOW”-IN SINGAPORE (Feb 15) and GOT7 just announced the postponement of both concerts due to the coronavirus situation in Singapore.
They wrote: “The safety of artists, patrons and staff is our top priority and we will continue to act on advice from the authorities on the coronavirus and take precautionary measures in line with prevention efforts. Customers who have purchased tickets will receive full refund through the original mode of payment.”
The concerts are postponed till further notice.
WINNER’s concert cancelled
Live Nation, the organiser of WINNER’s [Cross] Tour in Singapore, announced the cancellation of the concert, which was due to take place on February 8.
They said in a press release, “Due to coronavirus proliferation concerns, we are deeply sorry to announce that WINNER [CROSS] TOUR IN SINGAPORE on 08 February 2020 at The Star Theatre, The Star Performing Arts Centre has been cancelled. The safety of artists, audience, patrons and staff is our top priority and we will continue to act on advice from the authorities on the coronavirus and take precautionary measures in line with prevention efforts.”
Image: Live Nation/YG Entertainment
Each household in Singapore to get four free masks
Pulling your hair out in frustration because all the masks in Singapore seem to be sold out? Good news: the government will be giving out free masks. National Development Minister said today (Jan 30) that each Singapore household will receive a pack of four masks sealed in a bag. The masks will be made available progressively at 89 Community Centres (CCs) and 654 Residents’ Committe (RC) centres. Before your kiasuism kicks in and you think you’re gonna go down every day to redeem a bag, you are required to bring your NRIC to verify your address when you collect the masks. This means, they have a record on whether you or someone in your household has made the collection.
The masks will be available for collection from now till Feb 9.
Image: ST Photo / Timothy David
Text: Adeline Leong, Timothy Goh, Chang Ai-Lien, Salma Khalik, Benson Ang, Tee Zhuo, Malavika Menon, Toh Ting Wei, Danson Cheong / The Straits Times / January, February 2020, Hidayah Idris