[Updated 19 February 2020. We recommend checking the Ministry of Health's official update page for the latest news.]
It's been over a month since news broke of the 2019-nCov coronavirus (now known as Covid-19)
, which originated in Wuhan city, China. Reports of new and confirmed cases are still occurring across the region, which may leave you wondering if it's safe to travel during this time. ? Here are some updates on the situation in Singapore to help you make your decision.
Note: Do note that this article is not providing a definitive 'yes' or 'no' to whether you can still travel to Singapore, but is to help you make an informed decision. We recommend you weigh your options and discuss with your family or loved ones before changing or continuing with travel plans. ?
What is the Coronavirus situation in Singapore? Is the virus widespread?
As of 18 Feb 2020 (12pm), Singapore has 81 confirmed cases, 1051 negative cases, and 28 pending results. 29 people who were previously infected have also recovered which is great news! ? One of the recovered patients is a 1-month-old Singaporean who recovered a few days after his diagnosis - definitely a spot of good news amidst any worry!
There have been several local clusters identified, but the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other associated agencies have already stepped up contact tracing and investigations. You can follow the Ministry of Health's (MOH) official page on the virus
for daily updates and more detailed information, or check out this interactive dashboard to see the number of cases in Singapore across time
Singapore is currently under the 'Orange' level of the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON). Under Orange level, the virus has not spread widely yet and existing measures such as temperature screenings and quarantines have been stepped up. The MOH has also stated that the risk of infection from brief contact in public transport or public places is low - so far the cases of human-to-human transmission have been between those in the same household, or who had direct contact with existing patients (e.g. one cluster consists of those who visited a particular church).
How infectious is the disease?
As the virus has a 2-week incubation period and infected cases may be asymptomatic, this may be why more cases are starting to appear - it does not mean that the virus is getting more infectious or deadly! Some existing cases have also been reported to be responding well to treatments, and we hope that more good news will appear soon. ?
Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, young children, and immunocompromised individuals are still advised to take greater caution and avoid large gatherings. And of course, everyone is recommended to wash their hands regularly (it's been shown to be the most effective way to maintain hand hygiene and avoid the virus
!) and avoid touching public surfaces (e.g. lift buttons or handrails) if possible.
What is the health travel advisory for Singapore?
No country has currently issued any health travel advisories or bans for Singapore. The MOH has advised the public to stay at home if you are feeling unwell, maintain good personal hygiene, and look out for health advisories for updates. Those working with food and beverages or in close contact with customers and the public have also been advised to wear surgical masks and maintain hygiene standards. Our Malaysian writer Ili also had some apprehension about travelling to Singapore for work during this time - click here to read about her experience
Some of Singapore's popular attractions have also taken precautionary measures:
- Wildlife Reserves Singapore (including the Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari): Front-line staff have been provided with face masks, and guests and staff are advised to wash/sanitise their hands regularly.
- Resorts World Sentosa (including Universal Studios Singapore, Adventure Cove, and the S.E.A. Aquarium): Thermal scanners have been placed at key guest entry points, and hand sanitisers have been made available across the attractions. Cleaning and disinfection schedules have also been increased.
- Gardens By The Bay: Cleaning and disinfection schedules have been increased especially in high traffic and enclosed areas. All handheld devices such as audio-visual aids are also disinfected frequently.
- Changi Airport: Cleaning and disinfection schedules have been increased, and all touchscreen panels have been given a protective coating to reduce contamination. All inbound passengers will also undergo temperature screenings. On 29 Jan, it was also announced that visitors with travel history to Hubei will be either quarantined or banned from entering Singapore. Individual airlines have also released their own policies regarding cancellation of flights to/from mainland China.
- Click here to find out which other major attractions have stepped up their precautionary measures!
What is the everyday situation in Singapore right now?
As a Singaporean, the biggest change for me has been seeing how empty the streets are over the weekend, as well as how much less crowded the trains and buses are throughout the week - even during peak commute periods! Commuters are also more conscious about sneezing or coughing into tissues and wearing masks, but the overall atmosphere is still quite calm.
Public spaces such as shopping malls, museums, and even classes/activities are less crowded too. Ironically, this even makes it easier to avoid being around large crowds. ? You also see more hand sanitizer being put out at places such as hospitals and museums - although do keep in mind that soap and water can be more effective in killing germs than just sanitizer!
No major attractions have announced closures or altered opening hours, and you can still see some tour groups and tourists around. Smaller tours or attractions, especially in the Chinatown neighbourhood, may alter their hours or temporarily suspend tours.
Is it safe to travel to Singapore?If you have existing plans:
Ultimately, your health should be your biggest priority. If you're travelling with seniors or young children, the best option would be to cancel or try to reschedule plans so that their health is not at risk. Do note that some airlines or hotels may not offer refunds for this. However, there are no major signs at the moment of any massive outbreak or widespread virus transmission. ?
P.S. We checked with the official pages of Scoot, AirAsia, Jetstar, Malaysia Airlines, and Garuda Indonesia but there have been no announcements of refunds or cancellations for flights to/from Singapore. We recommend reaching out to the airline directly if you have any questions concerning this.
If you do not have existing plans:
Your health should still be a priority no matter what. Singapore has put in place strong measures to help detect the virus and control its spread, and Singaporean locals are also aware of health precautions to take. Do bring your own masks and sanitizers as it may be difficult to find them in stores!
Ultimately it is your choice to visit Singapore, as you know your own situation and comfort levels best. ? If you do decide to visit Singapore, here are some precautions you can take:
- Avoid contact with live (wild) animals or raw/uncooked meat
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to prevent possible transmission
- Wash your hands with soap regularly, or use disinfectant wipes
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue, and dispose of it immediately
- Stay at home if you are feeling unwell, and see a clinic if necessary
- If you have symptoms such as cough and runny nose, wear a mask if you need to go out in public. You are also recommended to wear a mask for no more than 1 day and change it when necessary.
- Stay away from crowded and enclosed areas if possible
- Keep your health and immunity good before and during your stay
- Avoid panicking, and double-check the information in any message threads or online comments about the virus. If you're still uncertain, the MOH publishes daily and live updates about the virus on its Facebook page.
Above all, do your research and take any necessary precautions before making a decision. ? The health of you and your travel buddies or loved ones should be the top priority! Whether you're travelling to Singapore or any other country in the region, make sure to take proper precautions and keep up with accurate information.