Singapore resists calls for ban on Chinese travelers as 5th case confirmed

A patient is treated at the Wuhan Central Hospital. Photo: Wuhan Central Hospital/Weibo
A patient is treated at the Wuhan Central Hospital. Photo: Wuhan Central Hospital/Weibo

Singapore confirmed its fifth case of the deadly Chinese coronavirus yesterday as infections and fatalities continue to skyrocket in China and the first case was reported in Cambodia.

Officials are preparing for an influx of illnesses, and announced that students will be given one day’s eviction notice before their dorms are converted into quarantine centers. Any teachers or students returning from China will have to take mandatory leaves of absence for two weeks as a precautionary measure.

The government is holding off on a full ban of Chinese tourists entering the country despite an ongoing public petition that has gained more than 20,000 signatures. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday cautioned Singaporeans against “overreacting” or “turning xenophobic.”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry last week said there were 35 Singaporeans in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the month-old outbreak, saying all “reported that they are well,” and there were no plans to evacuate them.

Confirmed infections have soared to more than 4,000 across China, mainly in Wuhan, which the authorities there have attempted to seal off, along with around 10 other Chinese cities in a bid to contain the virus, locking down more than 50 million people. However, 5 million had already fled Wuhan before the quasi-quarantine was put in place, city mayor Zhou Xianwang told reporters Sunday. Zhou also confessed to withholding information about the outbreak. 

The novel coronavirus has spread to at least 13 other countries outside of China – the first case in Cambodia was confirmed last night – a Chinese man from Wuhan who had visited Sihanoukville city earlier this month. 

Several nations including France, Thailand and Australia said they would evacuate their citizens from the sequestered city of Wuhan.

China was also rushing to build a hospital in Wuhan to treat coronavirus patients and is expected to complete it this week. 

The SARS-like virus, also known as 2019-nCoV, is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it also comes from animals, and is believed to have emerged from a now-shuttered market that sold exotic wildlife such as bats. China has temporarily suspended all wildlife trade.

The head of the World Health Organization was in Beijing today to discuss the outbreak, days after he said the Wuhan pneumonia virus did not yet constitute a global health emergency due to the limited number of cases abroad. 

Canada, Germany and France are among countries outside of China with confirmed cases. In other parts of Asia, new cases have been confirmed in Cambodia and Sri Lanka, while Hong Kong now matches Thailand with the most number of confirmed cases – eight.

While Singapore was not planning to airlift citizens from Wuhan, Thai officials said they were devising plans to evacuate Thai nationals from the city, where it has 54 students and 10 workers. The meeting came after a viral plea from a Thai student at Wuhan University who said students were trapped in the city with insufficient food. 

‘I really want to go home,’ says Thai student trapped in Wuhan without food

Thai Air Force commander Manat Wongwat reportedly said that up to four C-134 planes with medical staff and equipment are on stand-by to evacuate Thais from hotspots in China.

Malaysia moved to temporarily bar entry for Chinese tourists from Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan by suspending their visas amid the pneumonia virus outbreak.

The decision comes after more than 300,000 signed a petition calling the country to ban entry for Chinese tourists. 

Myanmar and Indonesia are still free of the coronavirus but remain vigilant as the outbreak spreads to neighbouring countries. 

The country has investigated around 15 suspected cases, most of them tested negative. Results of three cases are pending. 

In Manila, more than 600 Chinese tourists were sent back to Wuhan and canceled all direct flights. The country, which is still free of the virus, is investigating 11 suspected cases.

Several Metro Manila schools have suspended classes. Up to 50 Filipinos are in Wuhan and want to go home.  

Hong Kong has declared the Wuhan virus outbreak an emergency in the city amid pressure for the government to act. It has also banned entry of people from Hubei province, excluding Hong Kong residents. 


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