Saturday, 8 February 2020

Singapore to work closely with China to battle novel coronavirus threat: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat

Singapore sending coronavirus test kits, screening machines to China
Channel NewsAsia, 7 Feb 2020

Singapore will continue to work closely with China and the international community to fight the novel coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday (Feb 7).

“This includes preventing its further spread and developing better medical testing,” Mr Heng wrote in a Facebook post, following a phone call with China’s Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

“In times like this, with the longstanding special relationship between Singapore and China, it is also important for us to work together.”

One of the examples he cited is the work Singapore researchers have done to develop novel coronavirus testing kits for use in laboratories.

“We can contribute to China’s containment efforts by providing test kits to conduct 10,000 tests at the first instance, together with three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines,” he said.

“We will be providing 10,000 tests in the next couple of weeks.”

He added that Singapore’s scientific experts are also “exchanging views with their counterparts in China”.

In addition to this, the Government will also be contributing S$1 million in seed funding to the Singapore Red Cross, which launched a public appeal to raise funds for humanitarian assistance to affected communities in China.

Mr Heng also conveyed his condolences and sympathies to the families and communities affected by the virus in China in his post.

“Infectious diseases are transboundary in nature,” Mr Heng said. “Countries can only overcome this challenge by stepping up measures within each country, and by collaborating with one another.”

Singapore has reported 30 cases of the novel coronavirus, which has affected more than 30,000 people and killed more than 600 in China. Outside mainland China, Hong Kong and the Philippines have recorded one death each.

The first local transmission cluster was also confirmed earlier this week. Authorities said there is no evidence of community transmission in Singapore so far.

Last week, it was announced that all new visitors with recent travel history to mainland China will not be allowed to enter or transit in Singapore. Those with Chinese passports, excluding Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders, will also not be allowed to enter Singapore.

“Singapore will continue to do our part – enhancing our safeguards as the situation evolves, and working with China and the international community to combat this outbreak," Mr Heng wrote.

“I am confident we can overcome this challenge together.”

Chinese aerobatics team here for Singapore Airshow took extra precautions, passed all health checks: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2020

The Chinese air force's aerobatics team took extra precautions, met Singapore's criteria for health, and passed all checks before they arrived here for the upcoming airshow, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

That both the Chinese and United States air forces are here for the biennial event, running from next Tuesday until Feb 16, testifies to Singapore's ties with the two countries, he added. "It's really a vote of confidence. It's also a measure of how strong our relationship is," Dr Ng told reporters at the Changi Air Base (East) after meeting Chinese and American air force servicemen.

On Wednesday, Singapore Airshow organiser Experia Events said the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Ba Yi aerobatics team will be taking part for the first time as one of five flying display performances.

The Government announced on Jan 31 that all new visitors who had been in mainland China in the past 14 days were barred from entry or transit in Singapore, starting from last Saturday. The move was part of Singapore's efforts to contain the coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Asked about public concern over the exception made for the Chinese team, Dr Ng said: "I think it's natural to be concerned, and they are just as concerned as us because we have cases here, and just like other pandemics, whether it's Sars or H1N1, once it goes into the community, you can get it from anywhere.

"But we have been very careful and the PLA was particularly careful that they observed all requirements needed to be healthy, and they underwent stringent tests."

He said he was grateful to US Defence Secretary Mark Esper for accepting his invitation for the US forces to perform at the airshow.

The aerospace and defence exhibition will be held at the Changi Exhibition Centre.

The invitation to the Chinese was sent to vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission Xu Qiliang and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe when Dr Ng visited China in October last year.

This is the 30th year of diplomatic ties between Singapore and China.

Yesterday, Dr Ng was accompanied by the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, and the Chief of Air Force, Major-General Kelvin Khong, as he was given a tour of Ba Yi's J-10 fighter jets, and the US' F-22 Raptor and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Ng said he told the pilots to remain strong and stay focused. "Our relationships with our close friends will withstand tough times and grow even stronger."


Second plane leaves for Wuhan with aid, will return with Singaporeans
By Timothy Goh, The Sunday Times, 9 Feb 2020

A second plane from Singapore to Wuhan took off from Changi Airport yesterday afternoon, carrying with it supplies for the coronavirus-stricken city, and it will be returning with Singaporeans stranded there.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and the Chinese Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Hong Xiaoyong, met at the airport where the minister handed over diagnostic test kits and medical supplies to the envoy.

Dr Balakrishnan, in a Facebook post later, noted that Scoot flight TR5120 would be "extra special" for the Singaporeans who have been stuck in Wuhan since it was put on lockdown on Jan 23.

"(The flight) is extra special because today marks 'Chap Goh Mei', a day for family reunion in Chinese tradition. This flight will bring our Singaporeans and their family members back home from Wuhan," he posted. The returning Singaporeans are expected to arrive this morning. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that appropriate quarantine arrangements have been made for all of them.

One likely evacuee is Mrs H, 30, whom The Straits Times previously spoke to after she was separated from her Singaporean husband who returned home on a specially arranged flight on Jan 30. She said she could not join him at the time as Chinese nationals were not allowed to leave Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mrs H and her infant son, who is only a few months old, have been staying with her parents since.

She told The Sunday Times she and the other stranded Singaporean residents in Wuhan have been waiting anxiously for the second flight to take them home.

She added that as of 2pm yesterday, none of them had received official confirmation that they would be able to return home or get a pass to go to the airport. "We are still waiting anxiously," she said.

In the meantime, she has been caring for her young son and passing the time surfing the Web or watching TV. She has been on video call with her husband every day.

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