Singapore will close its borders to all new visitors from mainland China, including foreigners who have been there within the past 14 days, becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The island nation has China as one of its biggest trading partners and is a popular destination for Chinese tourists. Figures from the Singapore Tourism Board showed that 248,000 travellers from mainland China entered Singapore last November, while 3.42 million mainland Chinese tourists visited in 2018.
The visa suspension will come into effect immediately so travellers can be informed in advance, while the travel restriction will start on Saturday night at 11.59pm.
As of Friday, Singapore has 13 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, all of whom are travellers from the Chinese city of Wuhan. Health authorities have stressed that there is no evidence of community spread within the city state as of now.
The move is an escalation of Wednesday’s announcement that the country was stopping the entry of new travellers who had been to Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. Wuhan is Hubei’s capital.
Residents and citizens of Singapore who have been to China will be able to come into the city state, but will be subject to a 14-day leave of absence during which they will have to stay at home.
The move to close its borders to Chinese visitors comes on the back of local authorities’ assessment that more people in other parts of China are and will be affected by the virus.
The Singapore government will on Saturday announce a fiscal package to help businesses and citizens during the crisis.