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Reply to Media Queries on the Number of Imported Cases who were Short Term Visitors

In response to media queries on the number of imported cases who were short term visitors, MOH would like to clarify the following.

The B1617 variant prevalent in South Asia is not just a Singapore problem. The WHO has deemed it a variant of global concern.

According to the Gisaid Institute, Europe has sequenced almost 2,000 B1617 infections, US 486, Australia 85, Japan 29 and China 17.

This is a major reason why transmission is rising throughout Asia — in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan. Even hitherto safe regions, such as Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam, are experiencing outbreaks of community cases.

These cases all originated from imports because all borders are porous. All it takes is one case to cause an outbreak, and no country can seal itself off totally. At the minimum, citizens and residents must be allowed to return home.

For imported cases in Singapore, we reported 409 cases over 28 days from 16 Apr to 13 May. 41.6% of them were SC/PRs, 50.6% were Work pass holders, student pass holders or dependents, and 7.8% were short term visitors. All short term visitors are allowed to enter only if they have family ties here, or on specific compassionate grounds such as to attend a funeral, or seek medical treatment.

If we just look at South Asia, the number of imported cases over the past 28 days was 271, comprising 50.2% SCs/PRs, 46.5% work pass holders, student pass holders or dependents and 3.3% short term visitors.

Every arrival is subject to stringent SHN and tests. Community transmission occurred nevertheless because the virus breached our safe measures, including at Changi Airport.

The infiltrating virus can be from SC/PR/work pass holders or a short term visitor. This is a challenge faced by all countries because no one can entirely close their borders.

15 MAY 2021

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