Singapore to ban all short-term visitors in unprecedented virus crisis

FILE PHOTO: Commuters leave the Woodlands Causeway across to Singapore from Johor, hours before Malaysia imposes a lockdown on travel due to the coronavirus outbreak, in Singapore March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore will not allow any short-term visitors to transit or enter the city-state in its latest measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus and to conserve its resources for citizens who are returning from other countries.

The new measures announced on Sunday come a day after the city-state reported its first fatalities and it confirmed 47 new cases, taking its tally to 432.

Some short-term visitors have continued to arrive even after Singapore imposed a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine on anyone entering the country.

Almost 80% of Singapore’s new cases over the past three days were imported. Of the 39 imported cases reported on Saturday, six were of short-term visitors.

“During this time we have to focus our resources on returning Singaporeans, because they are coming back in large numbers,” said Lawrence Wong, a minister who co-heads Singapore’s virus fighting task-force.

The country will also limit the return and entry of work pass holders, including their dependents, to those who provide essential services such as healthcare and transport.

Singapore issues different kinds of work passes for professionals to semi-skilled workers. Holders of long-term visit passes (LTVP), given to people such as foreign spouses and parents of Singaporeans, will not be affected.

“These are very significant moves, especially for a small and open economy like Singapore that has always been connected to the world,” Wong told reporters. “But this is an unprecedented crisis.”

The ban on short-term visitors effectively starts on Tuesday, and Wong said he could not say how long it would need to last as it would depend on the outbreak’s duration.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Sam Holmes