TL;DR – We even tell you if Singapore has enough masks for Singaporeans.
Here’s everything you need to know and all the links you need to have regarding the Wuhan virus for now.
What is the Wuhan virus?
The Wuhan virus, also known as 2019-nCov, belongs to a large group of viruses that usually infect only animals, and are so named for the crown-like spikes on their surface.
In this large group, scientists have identified coronaviruses that affect humans, with seven types of these viruses classified to date. So yeps, 2019-nCov is one of these seven types.
Four of these typically cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses such as the common cold. But the remaining three have more severe repercussions on human health.
The first is the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus, which killed almost 800 people in 32 countries 17 years ago. Singapore saw Sars infect 238 people and killed 33 back in 2003.
The second is Mers-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later spread farther.
And now we have the third, 2019-nCov (Wuhan virus), which killed its first victims in the Chinese city of Wuhan. In Singapore, we now have seven confirmed cases.
Like what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has just said in a Facebook post, “So far, all seven confirmed cases in Singapore are Chinese nationals from Hubei. We have not had local transmission or community spread yet, but that can happen, and we must be prepared for it.” He also said, “The situation is developing rapidly. We have activated our contingency plans, and all our agencies are working together. Our hospitals and healthcare workers are well prepared. We have been preparing for something like this ever since SARS in 2003.”
Like other coronaviruses, 2019-nCov (Wuhan virus) has come from animals.
Many of those infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city, which also sold live and newly slaughtered animals. It doesn’t help that some Chinese communities or individuals like to eat wildlife including bats and snakes.
What are the symptoms caused by Wuhan virus?
What has been reported by different media outlets is that the symptoms for the Wuhan virus appear to be less aggressive as compared to SARS. Symptoms include headache, cough, sore throat, fever and even difficulty in breathing.
This virus causes pneumonia. Recovery really depends on the strength of the patients’ immune system. People who are already in poor health are more vulnerable.
While milder in nature, it may also be more prone to transmission since people may have travelled further before symptoms can be detected. Some experts have said that an infected person may show no symptoms for up to 14 days. So these infected people who are not showing any symptoms are infectious and could spread the coronavirus to others unknowingly.
What is somewhat scary to hear is that mayor Zhou Xianwang has said on Sunday (26th January 2020) that some 5 million residents have left Wuhan before the lockdown.
Reactions from Singapore
22nd Jan Multi-Ministerial task force formed
A multi-ministerial task force was set up to direct the Government’s response to the Wuhan virus. The task force will be co-chaired by Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong. DPM Heng Swee Keat will be advisor to the task force.
The ministers who formed the 10-member team include mostly 4G leaders, and they include:
- Co-chair Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health
- Co-chair Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development
- Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information
- Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry
- Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources
- Mr Ng Chee Meng, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office
- Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education
- Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs
- Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development
- Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information
27th Jan: Key sharing from the Multi-Ministerial press conference
There is currently no evidence of community spread, but as situation escalates globally, we need to ramp up our measures to contain any potential spread.
The Singapore Government has said it will spare no effort to keep Singaporeans safe.
The multi-ministerial task force announced that they are introducing a suite of additional measures to prevent further importation of the virus to Singapore:
- Extend travel advisory. Advise travellers to defer all non-essential travel to mainland china.
Enhanced screening at air checkpoints. To deploy thermal scanners to cover ALL incoming flights into Changi airport (not just flights from China)
Students who return from China will be given a leave of absence (LOA) for 14 days, stay home and minimize close contact with others.
For working adults returning from China, employers are advised to collect health and travel declarations, monitor temps daily and go to the doctor immediately if there are any symptoms.
Where there is close and sustained contact with vulnerable groups, employers should institute 14 days absence from day of return. Three sectors where it applies – healthcare, education and eldercare.
The various ministries and bodies will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation and implement additional measures as necessary.
One important message from the press conference is that whilst the Government is putting in many layers to protect Singaporeans, the most important defense is, arguably, at the individual level.
Everyone has a part to play.
Be socially responsible. Adopt good personal hygiene. Carry on with our lives.
- MOH updates on Wuhan virus
- Gov.sg on Whatsapp
- Advisory for different sectors
- FAQs about Wuhan virus (by MOH)
27th Jan: MOM released precautionary measures for employers
On the same day, the Ministry of Manpower also released precautionary measures to be taken by employers and employees travelling to and from Mainland China. The document includes general precautions as well as recommendations on flexible work, leave and salary arrangements for affected employees.
Read the full MOM advisory here.
On the labour front, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng stated that NTUC is working together with the government and employers to implement the different measures, as well as with the unions to make sure that the workers are well taken care of. He said:
“In NTUC, workers’ welfare is our top priority, especially in such circumstances. We have taken proactive measures with different companies in the private sector and with government agencies to ensure that the different measures have been implemented on the ground.”
“As Labour Chief, I would like to urge all workers to take personal charge of your own health, and to make sure that you keep abreast of different government advisories.
“Take the necessary precautions so that individually you are well, and collectively companies can continue with the things that they do, so that life can continue as normally as possible for Singapore.”
28th Jan: No entry or transit for visitors Hubei
MOH confirmed two new cases of Wuhan virus, bringing the total number of infected cases in Singapore to seven.
With three confirmed cases within the last 24 hours, MOH is concerned that this presents a heightened risk to Singapore, although there is as yet no evidence that the virus has spread in the community.
To better protect Singaporeans, new restrictions have been put in place, and include no entry or transit for travellers with passports issued in Hubei or those who have travelled there recently. Wuhan is the capital city of Hubei.
Be responsible. Fight fake news and rumours.
There have been many rumours and text messages relating to Wuhan virus, and people pass them along unthinkingly. The trouble is the pass-along rate of such rumours and even fake news is fast and wide, but when proven to be wrong or fake, the clarification that follows does not have the same pass-along rate.
So what happens is we will get a fraction of the population reading and believing in all the wrong things, and also, all these wrong or unverified information can also cause unnecessary panic.
Over the past few days, people were circulating a message about how there’s a Wuhan Virus patient at Swensen’s at Sengkang mall, Compass One. Well, it’s not linked to the Wuhan virus.
Then there is yet another message going around about Woodlands. Veteran healthcare correspondent Salma Khalik wrote a piece that addressed the six million dollar question (and some others),
Should we avoid places, including clinics, where a person suspected of having the Wuhan virus has been to?
A: No, you do not. First, these are suspected, and not confirmed, cases.
Even if they are confirmed, it generally requires prolonged exposure to the infected person for you to catch the bug.
Such prolonged exposure, or close contact, with an infected person is defined by the health authorities as at least 30 minutes within 2m of the person.
At places where an infected person has been, by the time the information is known, the person would also no longer be there.
Do we have enough stock for masks?
Yes, we do. But even before we talk about availability of masks, let’s clear something up first. Like what Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Health said in a Facebook post today,
“As there is currently no local transmission of the 2019-nCoV infection, masks are generally not needed in our normal daily activities. However, do put on a face mask if you have respiratory symptoms like a cough or runny nose to prevent the spread of the flu or the common cold viruses.”
“Above all, practise good personal hygiene by washing your hands frequently. If you are feeling unwell, please seek medical attention promptly.”
Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min has said that the Government/Ministry will be working with retailers like NTUC FairPrice to ensure Singaporeans have access to masks.
At the same time, NTUC FairPrice has also updated on their Facebook page today that they will continue to work with suppliers to bring in more stock.
“While we continue to work with suppliers to bring in more stock for these items, we urge customers not to hoard these items as doing so will deprive others who need them as well.”
“We will continue to keep the prices of face masks, hand sanitisers and thermometers steady and make them affordable in our commitment to curb profiteering.”
So now, my fellow Singaporeans, we have confronted many challenges before, and we have defeated Sars.
Back in 2003, we were given a 20-day period with no new cases of Sars infection before the World Health Organisation (WHO) would declare Singapore “Sars-free”. We did so well that the good news came a day ahead of the 20-day period.
Yeps, WHO had so much confidence that Singapore had successfully contained Sars that its spokesman in Geneva declared us “Sars-free” a day in advance. So much faith in our capability, I like!
Check out what one of our contributor-writers has posted earlier today,
Hey Singapore, we can overcome this together #SGTogether
(Featured image via)