Singapore said on Friday it was banning entry to all Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China in some of the most far-reaching moves worldwide to deter the fast-spreading coronavirus.
The ban, effective from Saturday, will also apply to transiting passengers but will exempt residents and long-term pass holders such as those on work permits, student visas or long-term visit passes, the health ministry said.
The move to suspend visas to mainland Chinese passport holders effectively shuts out the island’s largest group of visitors and will also bar other travellers who have been to China in the last 14 days.
The ban does not apply to passport holders and travellers to Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China and Singapore’s main rival financial hub in Asia.
It comes as the toll from the virus reached 213 on Friday, a day after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.
Singapore has reported 13 cases of the virus – all travellers from the Chinese city of Wuhan at the centre of the outbreak – and has warned that the outbreak will hit its economy this year just as it shows signs of recovery from decade-low growth.
“In view of the growing possibility of transmission from new travellers arriving from other parts of mainland China, the Ministry of Health has assessed that it is prudent to take additional pre-emptive measures at this stage,” the ministry said in a statement.
Chinese nationals make up the largest share of visitors to the Southeast Asian travel and tourism hub, one of the worst hit countries outside of China in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed 800 people globally.
Elsewhere, Italy’s aviation authority on Friday said all flights between China and Italy had been suspended until further notice after the country reported its first two cases of the virus which has now spread to more than 20 countries.