Singapore closes borders to keep virus at bay, will Hong Kong follow?

23 Mar, 2020 02:29

Singularity Financial Hong Kong March 23, 2020 – A day after Singapore confirmed its first two coronavirus-related deaths, the country said it would close its borders to short-term visitors and some foreign labourers from on Monday (March 23) to help the limit the spread of the disease.

The new rules mean short-term visitors will no longer be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore, while semi-skilled workers on “work passes” will not be allowed to return to the island unless their job is in sectors that provide essential services such as healthcare and transport, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement.

Pressure was on Sunday mounting for Hong Kong to follow Singapore and Taiwan in closing its borders on all non-residents as it reported 44 new coronavirus infections, the second-highest single-day spike since the outbreak began.

Asked if Hong Kong would follow Singapore’s lead, a government spokesman replied in a statement that it needed to conduct a “thorough risks assessment” first. Another regional transport hub, Taiwan, also shut its doors to all non-citizens.

“In Singapore, almost 80 percent of our new COVID-19 cases over the past three days were imported, most of them Singapore residents and Long Term Pass holders returning home from abroad. These imported cases had travel histories to 22 different countries”, the MOH statement said.

Dr Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the advisory committee on communicable diseases at the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the city could reach a “point of no return”. He urged the government to ban non-residents from entering without compelling reasons.

A top medical expert in Hong Kong warned that the number of infections could reach 1,000 in the next few weeks unless drastic measures were taken.

The Hong Kong government also revealed on Sunday night that police were investigating 41 cases of quarantine violation, including five people who could face prosecution for leaving their confinement without permission or removing their tracking wristbands.