Singapore from Wednesday will turn away visitors from Hubei province who do not already hold visas to the island nation, as it reports two more cases of the novel coronavirus - bringing its total number of confirmed cases to seven.
The restriction on entering Singapore or transiting through Changi airport takes effect at noon, and applies to Hubei residents as well as passengers of any nationality who have passed through the province in the past 14 days. The country's reported cases are all travellers from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and the epicentre of the virus outbreak.
Passengers from Hubei with existing visas - including permanent residents and holders with long-term visit passes - will be allowed into the country, but will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
Singaporeans and visa holders of any nationality who have passed through Hubei within that time frame will also be quarantined.
Travellers already in Singapore who had passed through the province will be contacted and assessed for risk, and those thought to be at high risk will be quarantined.
Authorities said there were about 2,000 people in the island nation with a travel history in Hubei or with passports issued in the province.
The quarantine orders can be legally enforced, Singapore authorities said, with a fine of up to S$10,000 (US$7,370) and/or up to six months in jail imposed for first-time breaches of the order.
The government said the new measures were a reaction to global trends showing that most people infected with the virus had been in Hubei. In China, which has more than 4,000 infections and 106 deaths, 95 per cent of the infected cases had also been to Hubei.
"The cases that we see arrived slightly before or after January 20, many of them developed symptoms a few days ago, we don't know how many of these travellers may still be incubating the disease and may develop the disease in the coming days," said a health ministry spokesman.
Lawrence Wong - Singapore's national development minister, and co-chair of its multi-ministry task force set up to deal with the virus - said the new measures were to deal with the heightened risk posed by travellers from Hubei.
"Just in the last 24 hours, we have seen an accelerating trend in the infection among (Chinese) nationals from Hubei province," he said.
"Within Singapore itself, we have had a near doubling of imported cases overnight. All of the cases confirmed in Singapore are imported and all of them are Chinese nationals from Hubei. (In China), the numbers are increasing overnight as well, and the infection in other Chinese cities, too, originates from Hubei."
He said the virus might be more transmissible than severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), but appeared to be less fatal - though he cautioned that this could change as new information emerged. Sars infected 238 people in Singapore in 2003, killing 33.
Wong had on Monday cautioned against overreactions and xenophobia when asked about an online petitions to ban travellers from China, which had been signed by more than 100,000 people as of Tuesday afternoon.
He said the new measures were already among the task force's plans and were activated because of the rapidly developing situation.
Meanwhile, the are long queues of people buying masks at shops in Singapore, with some visiting up to four pharmacies only to find masks and hand sanitisers have run out. The government on Monday assured Singaporeans that it had a stockpile of masks for the coming months, and urged people not to hoard them.
Singapore's sixth case is a 56-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore on January 19, and only began showing symptoms six days later. He was admitted to Changi General Hospital on January 26, and had stayed with his family in the Pasir Ris Grove area.
The seventh case is a 35-year-old Chinese man, also from Wuhan, who arrived on January 23 and showed symptoms the next day. He had stayed at Marina Bay Sands Luxury Hotel.
Both the new cases tested positive for the novel coronavirus late on Monday night.
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