About 140 Singaporeans are still believed to be within the mainland Chinese city of Wuhan, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong stated in Parliament on Feb. 3.
The city of 11 million has been in a state of lockdown since Jan. 23.
Wong added that most of these Singaporeans have spouses who might not be Singaporean and as such, had either chosen to remain in China for the time being or were unable to return due to complications arising from their spouse's non-Singaporean status.
In touch with Chinese authorities
Wong further stated that the Singapore government was currently working with the Chinese authorities to see what else might be done for such Singaporeans who wished to return.
He also highlighted that the government was in direct contact with the Singaporeans.
As to whether there were Singaporeans outside of Hubei province who had contracted the virus, Wong said, "We do not know of anyone at this point in time."
Vivian: All Singaporeans in China should e-register with MFA
Following Wong's reply, Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs (MFA), praised China for its response to the crisis and affirmed that China was "taking all the necessary measures to look after our Singaporeans who are still there."
He also highlighted,"I've spoken personally to the Chinese Foreign Minister and I can assure you (about China looking after Singaporeans), based on our conversation."
On Jan.29, Vivian posted on Facebook that he spoke to Foreign Minister Wang Yi the night before.Vivian further called for all Singaporeans in China to e-register with the MFA, explaining that this would allow the Singapore government to:
"...stay in close touch with them to monitor their condition, to give them appropriate advice, recommendations, and obviously if there's a possibility or a need, to mount further communications.
In adding that this ability for quick and effective communications "is absolutely necessary", he stressed:
"Rest assured, all the Singaporeans overseas, MFA we will not leave anyone behind, we will look out for you."
Four Singaporeans could come not come back on Scoot flight because they were already sick
Wong also revealed that four Singaporeans were unable to board the Scoot flight on Jan. 30 which brought back 92 Singaporeans from Wuhan.
On this matter, he elaborated that this was due to the four of them already showing symptoms.
One was hospitalised, while the other three were deemed unfit for flying.
When Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Wee Kiak asked if the four Singaporeans could still have been brought back for treatment given the plane's capacity, Vivian replied:
"We all know from a medical point of view, in the context of an epidemic and particularly when you're dealing with a global or potentially global epidemic, it is most unwise to put people on commercial aircraft, when they are febrile and potentially actively shedding viruses. So there was good medical rationale."
Vivian then stated that it was his opinion that the Chinese authorities had made the right decision in deciding that these four Singaporeans could not fly.
Should they have allowed it instead, this would have contravened both their own recommendations and also recommendations by the World Health Organisation, he added.
The minister then reiterated that for the remaining Singaporeans in Wuhan, the government "will do our best to ensure that they receive all the necessary treatment in Wuhan or in other places in China."
Top photo by Gary Todd via Flickr