While the entire world has closed their doors for any incoming visitors from coronavirus infected areas amid move to isolate China as well as Chinese people for over a week, India airlifted its citizens from the coronavirus epicentre Wuhan and brought 324 people, including seven Maldivians.
A week later, on Sunday, Feb 9, Singapore undertook a similar exercise bringing 174 Singaporeans and their family members from the coronavirus outbreak region.
Singapore and India are doing their best for the citizens
It should be noted that after WHO announced the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, many countries have closed their borders to arrivals from China. While Russia, Japan, Pakistan and Italy announced travel restrictions, the US and Australia also decided to deny entry to all foreign visitors who had recently been to China.
But WHO said on Friday, Jan 31 that such restrictions can cause more harm than "good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies." India and Singapore both decided to bring their citizens from China.
Meanwhile, Singapore minister Balakrishnan also announced the return of the citizens from Wuhan. He mentioned that the MFA crisis response team medical personnel, pilots and crew of Scoot TR5121 who volunteered for this rescue operation "Deserve our deepest admiration for their courage and sense of duty. They exemplify the best of humanity in tough times."
In addition, Singapore health minister Vivian Balakrishnan also stated: "I would like to express appreciation to the PRC government, Wuhan city government and the PRC Embassy in Singapore for facilitating the safe return of our fellow citizens. The returning passengers will undergo medical screening upon arrival at Changi Airport. Those with fever or respiratory symptoms will be taken to designated hospitals for further examination. The others will be quarantined for 14 days."
PM Lee to the nation about the coronavirus outbreak
Prior to minister Balakrishnan, Singapore Prime Minister urged the citizens to be united and see-through stressful time together. On February 8, The Prime Minister's Office released a video on social media platforms, where the PM Lee urged the citizens to be courageous despite the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak and see through this stressful time together.
During the speech, PM Lee also highlighted the efforts of many Singaporeans stepping up during this period, including grassroots leaders and Team Nila volunteers, who are currently helping in the distribution of masks to households, Singapore university students, who are delivering food to schoolmates confined to their dorms on leave of absence and the healthcare workers, who are treating patients.
No need to Panic
While comparing SARS with coronavirus outbreak, PM Lee stated that 17 years ago the city-state battled against the threatening situation, so this time they are much better prepared to deal with this new virus. "We have stockpiles adequate supplies of masks, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We have expanded and upgraded our medical facilities, including the new National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). We have more advanced research capabilities to study the virus. We have more well trained doctors and nurses to deal with the situation," said PM Lee.
In addition, he also confirmed that the situation is under control in Singapore but the situation is still evolving and every day brings new developments and "We have to respond promptly and dynamically. So far most of the cases have either been imported from China or can be traced to imported cases. When we discover them, we have isolated the patients, done contact tracing quarantined their close contacts."
PM Lee said there are some cases which cannot be traced back to the source, and this is why the authority has raised the DORSCON to orange on Friday which happened in 2009 during the H1N1 swine flu.
He said that there is no reason to panic, "We are not locking down the city, or confining anybody to stay at home. We have ample supplies. There is no need to stock up with instant noodles, or tinned food, or toilet paper."
He assured the Singaporeans stating that whatever the situation, people should do their part which include observing personal hygiene, check temperature twice daily and if anyone feels unwell, then avoid crowded places and see a doctor immediately.