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Singapore to bar visitors from India on worsening situation


Singapore said it will further tighten border controls with India, including a ban on visitors from the country, because of a "rapidly deteriorating situation" there.

Authorities are also stepping up measures to prevent a wider outbreak within Singapore, officials said at a press conference on Thursday. Foreign workers and those working in the construction and marine sectors, who had previously been infected with covid-19 and recovered, are no longer exempted from measures like routine testing, the health ministry said in a statement Thursday.

From Saturday, all long-term pass holders, which include foreign spouses or children of citizens or residents, as well as short-term visitors, who have been in India for the last 14 days will not be allowed into Singapore, or to transit through the city-state, the health ministry said. This will also apply to those who had obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore, it said.

All travelers from India who haven't finished their 14-day quarantine by Thursday will need to complete an extra seven-day isolation at dedicated facilities, instead of their homes, according to the statement.

The worsening pandemic in India has prompted travel restrictions in several countries. Australia will cut flights from India to reduce covid risk, Indian news channel NDTV said in a tweet. The U.K. added India to its travel ban list April 20, and earlier this month New Zealand temporarily suspended arrivals of its citizens and residents from India. Hong Kong banned flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 14 days starting April 20, while Macau has extended the quarantine requirement for travelers from those three countries to 28 days.

India posted the world's biggest one-day jump in coronavirus cases ever as a ferocious new wave grips the country, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums and prompting frantic cries for help on social media. The South Asian nation reported 314,835 new infections Thursday, topping a peak of 314,312 recorded in the U.S. on Dec. 21.

The coronavirus strains detected among travelers entering the city-state have included 46 cases with variant B.1.617 from India, which has been dubbed the "double mutant." All of the cases served quarantine upon arrival, the ministry of health said in a statement Thursday.

In Singapore, there has been a "worrying increase" in local cases, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a briefing on Thursday. After months of almost zero new cases, a virus cluster was discovered this week in a foreign worker dormitory, sending more than a thousand laborers into government quarantine.

There is no evidence that recent cases at the Westlite Woodlands dormitory are linked to the new strain from India, the health ministry said. Still, many of the arrivals from India are workers in the construction and marine sectors, and there is still a risk a leak may happen even if they had been quarantined before starting work.

"If such a leak were to happen among new Indian arrivals working in these sectors, then a new strain may get leaked into the dormitory. And worse, even recovered or vaccinated workers may get infected," Lawrence Wong, the education minister who co-chairs the virus taskforce, said at a briefing.

Among the additional rules to combat any virus spread among the migrant workers, Singapore will enroll the laborers back for regular routine testing once they have crossed 270 days from the date of their covid-19 infection.

"We know that this major move will have an impact on our construction, marine and process sectors, and many local SMEs and contractors will be badly impacted," Wong said. "The government will be looking at providing additional support measures to help these companies."

The 320,000 migrant workers living in dormitories who help build and service the city came into the spotlight last year as covid-19 raged through their packed buildings, threatening to wreck the nation's efforts to control the virus. Singapore then confined these workers to their dormitories to prevent an outbreak in their ranks from spreading across the island, and many of the restrictions on their movement have remained.

Tan See Leng, the second minister for manpower, said plans to ease restrictions for the workers are now put on hold "for a while" given the new virus cluster at the dorm.

Published : April 23, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Philip J. Heijmans