Singapore ramps up virus testing and tracing, cautions pubs ahead of shutdown – dpa international


Mount Elizabeth Medical Center in Singapore (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Police will patrol Singapore’s bars and nightclubs staging “farewell” events on Wednesday night, ahead of a government-enforced shutdown due to coronavirus.

A joint statement on Wednesday by Singapore’s police, Tourism Ministry and enterprise board warned that attendance must be limited to 250 people.

Organizers must “reduce mingling amongst participants” by keeping people “at least a metre” apart, the statement read, as Singaporeans took to social media to accuse the various venues of irresponsibility and recklessness.

After a recent jump of Covid-19 cases, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus, Singapore announced on Tuesday that “entertainment venues” such as bars, cinemas, discos and theatres would have to close from March 26 until April 30.

Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people after tomorrow, though schools and most businesses are staying open.

On Sunday, Singapore barred visitors from entering or transiting, with the Health Ministry saying that 80 per cent of the Covid-19 cases confirmed over the past week were “imported,” most of them homebound Singaporeans.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry stated that Singaporeans returning from Britain and the United States will be quarantined in hotels for 14 days.

“We cannot be complacent,” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told Singapore’s parliament on Wednesday, promising to ramp up measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

With an expected 200,000 Singaporeans scheduled to return home over the coming days, Gan announced an expansion of “contact-tracing” teams from three to 20 on Wednesday.

“We can trace up to 4,000 contacts each day, and will continue to scale up our contact-tracing capacity as needed,” Gan said.

Aiming to augment the intricate but intrusive tracing system, Singapore’s government launched a smartphone application called TouchTrace, which it said uses Bluetooth technology to track users who remain within 2 metres of each other for 30 minutes or more.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan posted on Facebook that the app had been downloaded over 620,000 times.

Gan told lawmakers on Wednesday that 39,000 coronavirus tests had been carried out in Singapore, one of the world’s highest rates per capita.

Singapore’s response to coronavirus has been widely-cited as a model to follow, despite its relatively small population and size – 5.8 million people crammed onto 740 square kilometres, an area less than Hamburg, the second-smallest German Länder.

By Tuesday night, Singapore had quarantined 8,882 people for 14 days, the estimated maximum incubation period for the infection.

Over 6,000 people have completed the quarantine, while 160 of the city-state’s reported 631 infections have recovered, the Health Ministry said late Wednesday. Two people have died.

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