Thick haze covers Singapore as neighbors continue to burn forests
UNTV News • September 18, 2019 • 548
Haze continued to blanket Singapore for a fifth consecutive day on Wednesday (September 18) as forest fires continued to rage in neighboring countries.
Every dry season, smoke from fires to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations in Indonesia clouds the skies over much of the region, raising concerns about public health and worrying tourist operators and airlines.
The 24-hour Pollution Standards Index, which Singapore’s National Environment Agency uses as a benchmark, was in a range of 111-126 in the afternoon, while PM2.5 ranged 83-115. A reading above PSI 100 is considered unhealthy. The World Health Organization sets a daily mean air quality guideline of 25 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.
Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to “unhealthy” levels on Saturday (September 14) for the first time in three years. (REUTERS)
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SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (January 23) reported the country’s first case of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 nCov) infection.
The infected individual is a 66-year-old male Chinese national from Wuhan City who arrived in the city state with his family on January 20.
The patient is now confined at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and has been in stable condition.
The Ministry is also observing the condition of two suspected cases of 2019 nCov infection.
One is a 53-year-old female Chinese national also from Wuhan, whose preliminary test for nCov is positive.
She is now in stable condition while the Ministry waits for the result of the confirmatory tests on her case.
Health authorities in Singapore are currently conducting contact tracing on persons who have had close contacts with patients.
The Ministry has identified nine travelling companions of the 66-year-old male patient, one of whom has been warded as a suspect case, a 37-year-old Chinese male from Wuhan.
He is now in stable condition.
Meanwhile, the rest of their companions will be quarantined for 14 days.
The Ministry ramped up its precautionary measures by ordering all public hospitals in Singapore “to screen and manage suspect and confirmed cases,” and reminded doctors and healthcare workers “to be highly vigilant, and maintain strict infection control and prevention measures.”
“Given the high volume of international travel to Singapore, MOH expects to see more suspect cases and imported cases. We urge the public to remain calm and vigilant, and to adopt good personal hygiene practices,” the Ministry said in a press release.
Singapore – After a mysterious virus originating from China was brought to Singapore by an unassuming traveler from Hong Kong in 2003, the island-nation and its ethnic Chinese majority population were hit hard.
The threat of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused widespread public panic, prompting school closures and inflicting economic damage to business and tourism. People bought face masks or remained indoors. Some 238 people were infected and 33 killed in Singapore. All told, SARS killed nearly 800 people worldwide during the 2002/03 outbreak.
Those memories remain fresh as a new SARS-like coronavirus originates from the city of Wuhan, China – just a 4-and-a-half-hour flight from Singapore, with direct daily flights between the two cities – and has spread to other Chinese cities and abroad.
With Singapore’s Changi Airport one of the world’s busiest for international traffic, and hundreds of millions preparing to travel this weekend throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is on high-alert for the already deadly the Wuhan virus. Many Singaporeans have family ties in mainland China, and the coming weekend marks peak travel time – the beginning of the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, with its traditional family reunions.
Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot on Thursday canceled its daily flight to Wuhan.
Singaporean health authorities this week began screening all inbound passengers arriving from China to spot and contain the disease, and are issuing health advisory notices. Earlier in the outbreak, only travelers from Wuhan were screened, and advisory notices were not issued.
In addition, Singapore’s Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases are distributing clinical guidance about the disease to emergency room and infectious diseases physicians, as well as to hospital laboratories.
Health experts say Singapore is vulnerable to the Wuhan virus but feel a situation like SARS in 2003 is unlikely to reoccur in Singapore now.
“The healthcare system and hospitals are far better prepared today, with improved surveillance systems, medication and equipment (including masks) stockpiles, and a state of the art 330-bed facility in the National Centre for Infectious Diseases that was built to precisely avoid a repeat of the SARS debacle,” said Hsu Li Yang, head of the Infectious Diseases Programme at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
“A whole of government approach to crisis management has also been developed post-SARS,” he added.
Singapore’s senior minister of State for Health and Transport, Lam Pin Min, said in a Facebook post that Singapore is concerned about the increase in cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia just as increased travel is expected during the festive season.
Lam urged the public to remain vigilant and adopt hygienic practices such as avoiding contact with live animals including poultry and birds and consumption of raw and undercooked meats; and avoiding close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness.
Ethnic Chinese make up the majority of Singapore’s 5.7 million population, at 76 percent, many with family ties to mainland China, and almost a fifth of new immigrants are from the mainland, according to the UN.
The SARS epidemic in 2003 drastically hurt air travel between China and Singapore at that time, aviation experts say, but air travel between the two countries has since grown at a rapid pace, along with more mainland Chinese moving to Singapore.
Air traffic between the two countries in the last decade registered an average annual growth rate of more than 8 percent, said Simin Ngai, dashboard editor for Asia at travel industry analyst Cirium. EFE-EPA
Singapore’s government on Wednesday invoked its fake news law against what it claims are “preposterous allegations” by a Malaysian human rights organization that denounced “brutal and unlawful” execution methods in the city-state.
Minister of Home Affairs K Shanmugam instructed the Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a correction direction against Lawyers for Liberty’s (LFL) online statement, as well as journalist Kirsten Han’s Facebook post sharing the statement, The Online Citizen’s web article and Yahoo Singapore’s Facebook post which shared an article, the home affairs ministry said.
“They will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts or articles, stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods,” POFMA said.
In a Jan. 16 statement, LFL said Changi prison officials were “given special training” to carry out a procedure in the event that the rope breaks during a hanging.
The procedure involved kicking the back of the neck of the prisoner in order to break it and carried out to be consistent with death by hanging, it said, adding that officers were told to kick no more than twice so that it would not be detected in the event of an autopsy.
LFL said the information came from a former Singapore Prison Services officer who had served in the execution chamber and was prepared to testify, and said the method “could not have been done without the knowledge and approval of the Home Minister and government.”
The home affairs ministry said the LFL statement contains “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations,” and that judicial executions are carried out in “strict compliance with the law,” in the presence of a doctor and vetted by a coroner.
It added that “the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before” and “prison officers certainly do not receive any ‘special training to carry out the brutal execution method’ as alleged.”
Journalist Han confirmed receiving the correction direction, saying she has been given until 8 am on Thursday to comply.
“I’ll be using the rest of the time given under the Correction Direction to decide how I should proceed,” she said on her social media accounts.
She added that after the LFL statement had been published, she had sent two requests to the prison service for response, but had not received a reply.
The Online Citizen said on Facebook it had “filed an application to the minister to cancel the direction. The minister has three days to consider the application before TOC can take the matter to the court.”
The law came into effect in October last year and correction directions have been issued against several people or entities since.
Under the law, Singapore can order what it considers “falsehoods” to be taken down from websites or ask for corrections. They can also order tech companies to block accounts.
The law received widespread criticism over fears it would be used to curb free speech. EFE-EPA
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