In Singapore, Lying About Where You’ve Been Can Result in 6 Months of Jail or a Fine of Up to $10,000

Officials monitor thermal scanners as passengers walk past upon arrival of a flight from Hangzhou, China at Changi Airport, Singapore January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Yiming Woo
  • Singapore has a strict protocol for tracking cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

  • The system relies on police, surveillance footage, ATM records, and a dedicated team of contact tracers, who map out where patients went in the days and weeks before they were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
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Anyone who catches COVID-19 in Singapore can expect to answer a lot of questions about where they’ve been, and who they’ve met along the way.

If they don’t comply, people can be put in jail for months or subject to thousands of dollars in fines. That is how seriously the southeast Asian city-state of 6 million takes its disease contact tracing.

“Contact tracing teams have been working round the clock” for more than 13 hours a day, tracing back the steps of anyone who’s contracted the novel coronavirus, a Singapore Ministry of Health spokesperson told Business Insider.

So far, the ministry has picked up 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and quarantined more than three thousand others, to help stop the spread of the virus. Here’s how the tightly-controlled system works.

The novel coronavirus spreads rapidly when people are in close contact with infected patients. But if you can keep COVID-19 contained, the spread stops.

That’s what’s happened in China, and the strategy seems to be working well in Singapore too.

“We don’t even talk about containment for seasonal flu – it’s just not possible,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva on Tuesday. “But it is possible for COVID-19. We don’t do contact tracing for seasonal flu – but countries should do it for COVID-19, because it will prevent infections and save lives.”

The Ministry of Health in Singapore employs a dedicated team of 140 contact tracers, who work in shifts from 8:30 in the morning until 10 at night every day of the week.

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SOURCE: Business Insider, Hilary Brueck