Novel coronavirus more infectious than SARS but less fatal: PM Lee, Lawrence Wong

Wong also added that 'we can’t tell how things will unfold.'

Jane Zhang| January 28, 09:11 PM

The Singapore government is taking additional measures to limit the risks of infection for the Wuhan virus, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong in two Facebook posts on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

This comes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced two new cases in Singapore in a press conference on Jan. 28, bringing the total number of confirmed infected cases to seven.

Less fatal than SARS

Both PM Lee and Wong said that the virus is currently less fatal than SARS, according to experts.

However, the novel coronavirus appears to be more infectious than SARS.

Wong also stressed that it is unclear how the situation might unfold, and that it is important to be prepared for the possibility of wider infection and community spread.

Wong added that there is also a possibility of being infected by the virus before any symptoms are visible.

PM Lee pointed out that this could make it more difficult to screen for and detect new cases before symptoms show.

No evidence of community spread in Singapore

So far, those infected by the virus in Singapore have been Chinese nationals from Hubei province itself. There has been no evidence of community spread in Singapore yet.

Thus, Wong said, current government actions are focused on containment and reducing the risk of community spread.

However, "we cannot rule out the possibility of wider infection and community spread", said Wong.

According to Wong, the government will monitor the situation and "adjust [their] posture" on a day-to-day basis, and if there is evidence of community spread elsewhere in China, will update their policies accordingly.

Lee called for Singaporeans to remain calm, be responsible for their personal health, and not spread rumours about the situation.

Well-prepared since SARS

PM Lee assured the public that Singapore is well prepared for the situation in Singapore even as it develops rapidly, saying that "We have been preparing for something like this ever since SARS in 2003."

Wong highlighted the contingency plans that are being implemented for different scenarios, which he identified as the following:

1. Recent travellers from Hubei who are currently in Singapore

There are about 2,000 people in this category, including Singapore citizens, Singapore permanent residents, and tourists.

The government is contacting them and quarantining the ones at higher risk, such as those who recently arrived in Singapore and are still within the incubation period for the virus.

2. Singapore residents — including citizens, PRs, and long-term pass holders — who are currently in Hubei and likely to return to Singapore in the coming days

Anyone in this category who has travel history to Hubei or who has a Chinese passport issued in Hubei will be quarantined.

3. New visitors with recent travel history to Hubei or Chinese passports issued in Hubei

Anyone in this situation will not be allowed entry into Singapore, nor will they be able to transit through Singapore.

In addition, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will stop issuing new visas to those with Chinese passports issued in Hubei, and all previously issued visas will be suspended.

The entry denial for those in category three will be implemented from Wednesday, Jan. 29 from 12pm.

You can read their full posts here:

Top image via Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters, Jane Zhang.