Ong Ye Kung: No cases of Covid-19 variant from South Africa in S'pore yet

From Nov. 27, 11:59pm onwards, Singapore has placed restrictions on travellers from seven African countries, including South Africa.

Ashley Tan | November 26, 2021, 04:35 PM

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A new Covid-19 variant known as B.1.1.529 has been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.

The variant has been described as the worst variant discovered since the start of the pandemic, with 32 mutations on its spike proteins.

Scientists believe that these mutations are concerning, as they could help make the virus more transmissible.

No cases of variant in Singapore so far

Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung addressed this news in a Facebook post on Nov. 26.

He shared that have been no cases of this variant in Singapore thus far.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is currently in touch with its counterparts in other countries and evaluating the data on the new variant.

At the moment, scientists globally are still in the process of figuring out whether the variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant, whether it will lead to more severe illness, and what the efficacy of existing vaccines against it is.

Tightened border measures for African countries

However, precautions still have to be taken.

Singapore has placed restrictions on travellers from seven African countries — Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

MOH announced earlier on Nov. 26 that all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to these countries within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore.

This restriction will apply to those who have obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore.

Returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents will be subjected to a 10-day SHN at a SHN-Dedicated Facility (SDF).

Additionally, South Africa will be placed in Category IV.

These border restrictions take effect from Nov. 27, 11:59pm, and will be in place for the next four weeks, following which MOH will review and extend them if necessary.

Minister for Transport S Iswaran shared during a press conference that there has only been one flight between Singapore and one of the seven countries today, with the country being South Africa.

Even so, "the volumes are very low", and most of the passengers on the flight are in transit and heading to other destinations.

Only around 10 passengers a day from South Africa enter Singapore, Iswaran said.

Ong also added in his Facebook post that once more data is available about the new variant, the government will "adjust the measures accordingly".

For more information and updates on border measures, you can visit the SafeTravel website.

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Top photo from Ong Ye Kung / FB