Singapore: Effects of the Coronavirus Outbreak

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published on 11 March 2020 | reading approx. time 2 minutes

On 7 February 2020, the Singapore Ministry of Health raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level for Covid-19 to from yellow to orange. This heightened risk assessment was accompanied by new immigration regulations and employment/human resources advisories.

 Travel Ban

Visitors – who are not Singapore citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders – with travel history to mainland China, the Republic of Korea, northern Italy, and Iran within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore. The issuance of all forms of new visas and previously issued visas to those with People's Republic of China (PRC) and Iranian passports have been suspended.

 

As of 15 March 2020, visitors, who are not Singapore citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders, with a travel history to Germany, France, Italy and Spain within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter into or to transit through Singapore.
 

Stay-Home Notice

Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with travel history within the last 14 days to mainland China (outside of Hubei), Republic of Korea, northern Italy, and Iran are subject to a Stay-Home Notice (“SHN”). These individuals are not allowed to leave their residences for any reason for 14 days. Random checks will be carried out by the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

 

As of 15 March 2020, this applies to Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with travel history within the last 14 days to Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

 

Employers must request for the MOM’s approval before work pass holders and their dependants can enter Singapore and must comply with additional obligations related to the SHN. They must ensure that employees stay away from their workplace but may adopt flexible work arrangements like work from home. If the latter is not possible, the employer may afterwards apply for a relief of SGD 100 per day and a levy waiver for foreign workers under the SHN Support Programme. Furthermore, it is the employer’s duty to provide meals or daily necessities for their employees on SHN.

 

Individuals with a Hubei travel history within the last 14 days are quarantined. Quarantined employees are deemed to be on paid hospitalisation leave.

 

Penalties

Failure to comply with the regulations may result in prosecution or the revocation of work pass privileges. A permanent resident lost his status and was barred from re-entering Singapore after he left the country in breach of his SHN. There have been reports on cases related to Covid-19 in which perpetrators were prosecuted or lost their work passes while the work pass privileges of the respective employers were suspended for two years.
 

Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)

The MOM advises employers to develop BCPs. They should in particular consider split team arrangements and work from home. The employees’ temperature should be checked at least twice a day and unwell employees should be asked to leave the office and see a doctor. Furthermore, visitors/customers should be logged and temperature screened where feasible. Frontline staff should be instructed on how to handle customers who are unwell. Non-essential large-scale events should be cancelled or deferred. Large-scale events should only proceed under additional precautionary measures.

 

Although advisories are technically not law, they should be observed to protect the employee’s health and avoid bad publicity or even liability.
 

Impact on the Singapore economy

Covid-19 is also likely to affected the Singapore economy. While the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry initially forecast an economic growth of between 0.5 and 2.5 per cent for 2020, it downgraded this forecast by 1 per cent to between -0.5 and 1.5 per cent. The GDP growth is expected to come in at around 0.5 per cent.

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