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Singapore moves to deport unvaccinated travellers

June 28, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Singapore’s Health Ministry is pushing for new powers to ban and deport foreign travellers who arrive without vaccinations against serious infectious diseases.

Proposed changes to Singapore’s Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) opened for public submissions yesterday.

Currently, travellers entering Singapore can be ordered to comply with vaccination, isolation or surveillance orders – or face deportation. The proposed law would go a step further and let Singaporean health and immigration authorities, at their discretion, reject and deport suspect travellers.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) says infectious diseases, such as Avian Influenza, Ebola, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are serious public health threats globally.

“As a major global trade and travel hub, it is imperative that we remain vigilant to public health threats, and safeguard the health of Singaporeans by protecting the community against new and emerging infectious diseases, both locally and overseas.

“We will introduce amendments to better manage the risk of importation of serious infectious diseases into Singapore. Currently, the IDA requires persons entering Singapore to be vaccinated against specific infectious diseases. Unvaccinated travellers may be subjected to vaccination, isolation or surveillance in Singapore, and travellers who refuse to comply may be returned to his/her place of embarkation.

“To safeguard Singapore against high-risk non-citizens who have not been vaccinated, the IDA will be amended to allow discretionary powers to return unvaccinated non-citizens to his/her place of embarkation without first offering vaccination, isolation or surveillance.

“This is in line with international practice. This discretion will be exercised judiciously, in scenarios where it is impractical to offer vaccination, isolation or surveillance. Unwell travellers arriving in Singapore will not be turned away, and will continue to receive medical attention as needed.”

If Singapore passes the measure, it may affect the travel plans of people who oppose vaccination.

Yellow fever is understood to be high on the list of diseases Singapore’s MOH is on guard against. It broke out in Brazil recently. Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure against this deadly mosquito-borne acute viral haemorrhagic fever.

“The vaccine confers lifelong protection against the disease 10 days after vaccination,” MOH says. “A booster dose is not required.”

Singapore is already battling other mosquito-borne diseases. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises that limited transmission of Zika virus may occur there.

“There is no vaccination available for Zika virus,” DFAT warns.

“Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne illnesses (including dengue fever, chikungunya fever and Japanese encephalitis) can occur.”

DFAT advises travellers to Singapore:

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always insect repellent and wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
  • discuss your travel plans and other vaccination needs with your doctor before you travel
  • if you are pregnant, defer non-essential travel to Zika-affected areas.

Written by Peter Needham

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