QUESTION:

DR JANIL PUTHUCHEARY: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) how many Singaporeans are there living or working in countries currently affected by the Ebola virus; and (b) what steps are taken to ensure that they will be given support should they need to evacuate or leave the country they are in.

REPLY:

Madam Speaker,

1 The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak afflicting West Africa is of concern, both in terms of the number of confirmed cases and the disease’s mortality rate. The confirmed cases have been limited to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and a small number of cases in Nigeria. On 8 August 2014, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergency Committee regarding the EVD ascertained that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The WHO has since recommended that EVD-related health advisories and information be provided to the general public and to travellers to the affected and at-risk areas. States have also been advised to be prepared to detect, investigate and manage Ebola cases.

2 The Ministry of Health (MOH) issued a health advisory on the EVD on 31 July 2014. In line with MOH’s advisory, MFA also issued a travel notice on 1 August 2014 concerning the Ebola situation and advised Singaporeans to postpone non-essential travel to the affected areas.

3 On the Honourable Member’s query, there are currently 12 Singaporeans in Nigeria and 1 Singaporean in Liberia. They are all registered with MFA. MFA is in regular contact with the Singaporeans residing in Nigeria and Liberia and has urged them to consider returning to Singapore, especially if they do not have essential matters to attend to, so that they minimise their risk of potential exposure.

4 The WHO has not placed a general international travel ban on the affected countries but has advised that any person with an illness consistent with the EVD should not be allowed to travel unless it is part of a medical evacuation. This applies to both EVD cases and individuals who have been traced to have had physical contact with individuals infected with the EVD.

5 Should there be an overseas Singaporean who has shown symptoms of the EVD or is a confirmed EVD case, MFA will work with the local authorities, employer and Next-of-Kin of the Singaporean, as well as our Ministry of Health to facilitate the repatriation. However, the Singaporean must be medically certified to be fit for travel before evacuation arrangements can be made.

6 Our High Commission in Pretoria and Consulate-General in Lagos are monitoring developments closely and remain in contact with the local authorities. MFA, together with its Overseas Missions, stands ready to assist any Singaporean who requires consular assistance.
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