SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Students in Singapore have been hurriedly clearing out dormitory rooms to be used as quarantine facilities for their peers as the city-state ramps up precautionary measures against the fast-spreading coronavirus.
The city-state said this week it is contacting some 2,000 people with recent travel history to China’s Hubei province - the centre of an outbreak that has claimed over 130 lives - and will isolate some at home or other facilities like campuses, military barracks or outdoor centres.
The travel and tourism hub was one of the worst hit countries outside China during a similar outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus in 2003 and has reported seven coronavirus cases to date.
Gao, a first-year student at Nanyang Technological University from China, said she was quarantined on Tuesday almost immediately on her return from Hebei province.
“I actually went to my lab session...but was chased out of class as they said that I need to be isolated. I think the quarantine period will be a little boring,” Gao said.
Gao said she had concerns about missing class but said the quarantine would protect her friends.
Mainland Chinese are one of the largest groups of international students in Singapore, according to a U.N. report, attracted by the city-state’s top-ranked universities, cultural similarities and widely-spoken Mandarin.
When Reuters visited Gao’s university on Tuesday, a stream of Chinese students returning after Lunar New Year holidays wheeling suitcases and carrying bags were being ushered by private security officers wearing surgical masks into the 400-room block being used as a quarantine zone.
Other students could be seen carrying boxes as they cleared out rooms.
Singapore said it is clearing out areas at two other universities, while local press have reported military facilities and an outdoor centre are also being set aside.
People who do not comply with quarantine orders could be fined up to S$10,000 or jailed for up to 6 months or both, authorities have said.
The education ministry and NTU did not immediately comment on the number of students quarantined.
Jenny Liu, a 22-year-old student from China, said she received an email on Monday by the university telling her to clear out her stuff.
“They gave us boxes to pack our things, and campus also called some movers to help us move to our new room,” Liu said.
“All in just one day, it was such a short time.”
(Changes Hubei to Hebei in paragraph 4)
Additional reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Michael Perry
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.