Singapore evacuates 92 citizens from virus-stricken Wuhan

Kyodo News

Posted at Jan 30 2020 07:57 PM

Tourists wear protective face masks at the Merlion Park in Singapore, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Feline Lim

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Thursday evacuated 92 of its citizens who were stranded in the Chinese city of Wuhan -- the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China -- via a specially arranged flight of Singapore low-cost carrier Scoot.

Scoot, which is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines Group, flew from the city-state to Wuhan, accompanied by Singapore foreign ministry officials, to pick up the Singaporeans.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post on Thursday that the 92 evacuees had returned home that same day.

He said he spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the phone on Wednesday to thank the Chinese government for facilitating the safe return of its nationals.

Scoot had suspended flights between Singapore and Wuhan from Jan. 23 to March 29 amid the Chinese government's decision to halt movement out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei Province, central China, to control the spread of the virus.

The returning Singaporeans had to undergo medical screening upon arrival at Changi Airport and will be quarantined for 14 days.

As of Wednesday, Singapore's Health Ministry had confirmed ten cases of coronavirus infections, all of them Chinese nationals who had traveled to the country from Wuhan.

Since Wednesday, the Singapore government has banned entry or transit through Singapore by people who have been in Hubei within the last 14 days or those with Chinese passports issued in the province.

The new coronavirus, reminiscent of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that killed more than 30 people in Singapore, has sent residents scrambling to buy surgical masks.

"Over the last nine days, the government released more than 5 million surgical masks from our stockpile to retailers...but the masks were snapped up in hours," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said as he announced that the government will distribute free masks to every household in Singapore.