Singapore has now reported multiple confirmed cases of coronavirus with four infections in patients with no travel history to China or connections to previous cases. The increase in infections, and broadening threat to public health, has prompted Singapore’s government to adjust its response plan. Accordingly, Singapore’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) has been moved up to ‘Orange’, meaning that the virus now poses a moderate to high public health threat, is transmitted easily from person to person, but remains under control.
Under DORSCON Orange, Singapore’s government is introducing new measures to minimise the possibility of further imported coronavirus infections and to prevent its spread across Singaporean communities. Businesses in Singapore should be familiar with the new guidance and how it will affect their operations in the coming weeks and months.
DORSCON Orange: New Coronavirus Measures
DORSCON Orange introduces a range of advisory and mandatory measures to aggressively combat coronavirus and protect vulnerable groups within the city-state. Some of the measures are particularly relevant to Singapore’s businesses and workplaces:
Cancel or Delay Large-Scale Events: Organisers of large-scale events are advised to cancel or postpone if those events are non-essential. Organisers that choose to go ahead, or that cannot cancel, should ensure that all necessary anti-infection precautions are taken. Practically, those precautions involve:
- Screening participants by regularly checking their temperatures and by looking for symptoms such as runny noses, coughs, or respiratory problems.
- Reminding participants who have recently travelled to China not to attend the event. Similarly, any participants currently on sick leave (or on any leave of absence) should not attend.
- Ensuring event venues are well ventilated, cleaned regularly, and well stocked with hygiene facilities and materials such as hand sanitizer.
- Maintaining a register of event participants and (if possible) introducing a requirement for individual travel declarations.
Workplace Health Checks: Employers should ensure that robust health checks are in place in the workplace. Workplace health checks should involve:
- Checking employees’ temperatures at least twice a day.
- Screening for symptoms of respiratory illness, including runny noses or coughs.
- Sending employees with symptoms of illness home from the office immediately to see a doctor.
Business Continuity: In a worst-case scenario involving a widespread coronavirus outbreak across the community, employers should put appropriate business continuity measures in place. These measures may involve allowing employees to work from home or segregating the workplace. Employers should closely monitor government information sources for further advice.
Protection for Vulnerable Groups: DORSCON Orange introduces specific measures to protect vulnerable groups within Singapore from infection:
- Healthcare institutions: Temperature screening will be implemented in hospitals and clinics throughout Singapore, along with closer control of entry points. Additionally, patients with pneumonia will be separated from others. Singapore’s Ministry of Health will work with institutions to ensure the implementation of anti-infection measures.
- Schools: All inter-school and external activities such as games, field trips, and camps, will be suspended until the end of the school holidays in March. Infection controls measures already in place in schools will continue.
- Pre-school care/elderly care services: Further visiting restrictions will be imposed on pre-schools and elder care facilities.
As the global situation continues to evolve, Singapore’s government is stressing the need for citizens to adhere to DORSCON Orange guidance in order prevent an escalation to DORSCON Red which would indicate the out-of-control spread of the virus. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong stated recently that the key to overcoming the outbreak is speed and awareness: “We have been preparing for this scenario, and we are ready to manage the situation. The key is quick detection and limiting further spread.”