If you’re a Singapore-based banking professional who’s just taken an extended new year holiday or business trip to China, you no doubt already realise the need to take a 14-day leave of absence when you arrive home. The government introduced this regulation in response to the Covid-19 coronavirus on 31 January, and some banks started banning returnee employees from their offices even earlier than that.
From tonight (11:59pm), however, the rules governing your 14-day leave period are tightening up thanks to the introduction of ‘stay-home notices’ (SHN) by the Ministry of Health (MOH). Previously, you would be allowed to leave your home briefly, for example to buy meals or household supplies. The monotony of working from home could at least be periodically interrupted by a trip to the shops.
The SHNs – which apply to all returnees who’ve travelled to China (aside from those coming back from Hubei, who are subject to quarantine) within the last 14 days – now stimulate that you have to remain in your “place of residence at all times during the 14-day period”. In other words: never leave the house.
You must also minimise contact with others, avoid having visitors to your residence, and maintain a record of persons you come into close contact with, according to an MOH statement. “If necessary, you may opt for home delivery services or enlist the assistance of others for your daily necessities.”
As a result of this new regime, your long days at home will likely become a touch more mundane if you’re a returnee. Now would probably be a good time to arrange more video conferences with your most interesting colleagues or clients, or ask your manager to give you more stimulating work to do from home.
Returnees must also monitor their health closely, checking twice daily for fever (i.e. a temperature of more than 38°C) and respiratory symptoms such as a cough and breathlessness. Other rules include maintaining good personal hygiene, household cleanliness, and indoor ventilation.
Don’t feel too sorry for yourself if you’re having to do all this, however. There are already signs that the 14-day leave rule is working in Singapore. Since it was introduced on 31 January there have not yet been any confirmed coronavirus cases among this group of returnees, according to MOH.
Singapore’s approach to the coronavirus outbreak is the “near perfect” “gold standard” for case detection, according to a new study by Harvard University researchers, who added that the global number of Covid-19 cases would be 2.8 times more than it is currently if every other country had the same detection capabilities as Singapore.
If you come under a stay-home notice, you are strongly advised not to breach it. Those who do face penalties and can be prosecuted under Section 21A of the Infectious Diseases Act. As has already happened under the previous 14-day leave rules, foreign employees may have their work passes revoked and be repatriated, while students may face disciplinary actions from their institutions.
Photo by Fernando Hernandez on Unsplash
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