Singapore's iconic Merlion statue. The mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish is the official mascot of the city-state. (Photo courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board)

Is It Safe to Travel to Singapore Amid Coronavirus Outbreak?

BY :NUR YASMIN

FEBRUARY 18, 2020

Jakarta. If you're considering a visit to Singapore, but feel uncertain because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Singapore Tourism Board wants you to know that they're doing all they can to keep tourists safe from the virus.

A total of 19.1 million tourists visited Singapore – a city-state of 5.8 million people – last year, contributing as much as S$27.1 billion ($19 billion) to its GDP. 

But its tourism board now expects a much lower number this year due to the continuing coronavirus outbreak.

"We expect a 25-30 percent drop, especially from China, our biggest market. We received 3.1 million Chinese visitors in 2019," John Gregory Conceicao, the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) executive director for Southeast Asia, said at a media briefing in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in January, Singapore has been receiving 20,000 fewer tourists daily. Normally, 20 percent of visitors to Singapore are from China.

The government estimates the decline in tourist numbers might reach 30 percent by the end of this year.

Indonesians are the second-biggest group of tourists to Singapore after the Chinese, with 2.2 million visitors in 2019.

"The Singapore government continuously takes concrete precautionary measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering Singapore. We're ready for business-as-usual. All businesses and tourism sites are open and operating normally. However, we are very cautious about people who are sick and showing symptoms of the virus," Mohamed Firhan Abdul Salam, STB's area director for Indonesia, said.

Singapore is now the second most-affected country after China in the coronavirus outbreak. As of now, 70 people in Singapore have tested positive for the virus and 26 have recovered.

To limit the spread of the outbreak, the government of Singapore has provided free medical masks to every household, performed comprehensive medical checks on visitors showing symptoms of the pneumonia-like infection and disinfected the city's public facilities.

"Singapore has contact-tracing technology, so if someone has contracted the virus, we can track everyone they've come into contact with," Firhan said.

Singapore's Changi International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and a major transit hub for international flights. The Singapore authorities say they are aware that the virus may be transferred between passengers during their layover. 

"We want to combat fake news about how we handle the virus in our country. Wrong information would induce panic and might influence others who have had travel plans. Some say our school is closed; our airport is quiet, daily needs running low, these are all not true," Firhan said.

The STB has also improved Singapore's most popular attractions, including the Magical Shores at Siloso, Basit Thani Laguna, Bugis Street, Marina Bay Sands, Resorts World Sentosa and Orchard Road to keep tourists interested. 

None of the major events planned for the city this year has been canceled, including the F1 Night Racing, Harry Potter and Aladdin plays, Now You See Me magic show and concerts by nu-metal band SlipKnot, pop singer Khalid, pop-punk band Green Day and classic rock band Scorpions.

 

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