Singapore's government said Monday that the threat from the coronavirus epidemic in China will undoubtedly impact the city-state's economy, while it assured the public that it has stepped up prevention measures.
"We certainly expect there to be an impact on the economy, business and consumer confidence this year, especially as the situation is expected to persist for some time," Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing told a press conference.
Of immediate concern are tourism-related sectors, he said, adding that government will try to help local businesses and workers hit by the economic impact of the epidemic.
(Passengers with face masks ride a subway train in Beijing on Jan. 27, 2020, amid fears over the spread of pneumonia caused by a new deadly coronavirus circulating in China.)
Singapore has already reported four confirmed cases, all of whom are Chinese nationals visiting from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei Province.
"We have no evidence that there is community spread of this virus in Singapore, but it may happen," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said. "This does not mean overreacting or turning xenophobic. We must be proactive and rational in our response."
On Monday, a ministerial taskforce formed to tackle the threat asked Singaporeans to defer non-essential trip to China. An earlier travel advisory had urged them to avoid travel to Hubei.
At Changi airport, thermal scanners are being used to monitor passengers from all incoming flights, not just those from China.
Singapore was among countries worst hit by the SARS virus outbreak of 2002 to 2003, with 238 people infected and 33 deaths.
Meanwhile, Malaysia announced on Monday that it has suspended granting of visas to Chinese coming from Hubei due to the virus outbreak.