Singapore will close its borders to all new visitors from mainland China, including foreigners who have been there within the past 14 days, becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus . The island nation has China as one of its biggest trading partners and is a popular destination for Chinese tourists. Figures from the Singapore Tourism Board showed that 248,000 travellers from the mainland entered Singapore last November, while 3.42 million mainland Chinese tourists visited in 2018. The visa suspension will come into effect immediately so travellers can be informed in advance, while the travel restriction will start at 11.59pm on Saturday. The government did not say when these restrictions would be lifted. Singapore also announced three new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing its total to 16. The new cases include one of the Singaporeans evacuated from Wuhan on January 30, a 47-year-old woman who travelled to the Chinese city with her family. She did not have any symptoms when she boarded the flight but was found to have a fever during a medical screening at Changi Airport. She tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. The two other new cases are both Chinese nationals: a 31-year-old man who holds a work pass for Singapore and had visited Hubei province, returning to the city state on January 26; and a 38-year-old man who arrived from Wuhan on January 22. The coronavirus has infected more than 11,000 people around the world, killing more than 213. The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak an international public health emergency. The move is an escalation of Wednesday’s announcement that Singapore was stopping the entry of new travellers who had been to Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. Wuhan is Hubei’s capital. China coronavirus: Singapore’s seven habits for good hygiene This is the first time Singapore has imposed travel restrictions due to public health concerns. There were no such restrictions during 2003’s severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis. Residents and citizens of Singapore who have been to China will be able to come into the city state, but will be subject to a 14-day leave of absence during which they are encouraged to stay at home. The move to close its borders to visitors from China comes on the back of local authorities’ assessment that more people in other parts of China are and will be affected by the virus. National development minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministry task force to deal with the virus, said the travel ban had nothing to do with nationality but was aimed at limiting new imported cases of the virus and reducing the risk of it spreading within Singapore. “Given Singapore’s role as a transport hub, given the volume of travel between China and Singapore, it is so hard to rule out the potential of new imported cases coming from outside of Hubei province,” he said. Wong said the outbreak had already impacted the economy, and the government would on Saturday announce a fiscal package to help businesses and citizens during the crisis. In 2003, during the Sars crisis, the Singapore government disbursed a S$230 million (US$170 million) relief package. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in comments to the media earlier on Friday, said: “It’s going to hurt us. China is a very big source of tourists for Singapore. [With the outbreak], that’s tailed off already considerably.” Lee said tourism from other sources would also take a hit as people took precautions, pinpointing the food and beverage, travel and hotel industries as those that were “bound to be significantly affected”. “I expect the rest of the economy also to be affected because with China in semi-lockdown mode now, their economy is bound to slow down and our economy is quite tightly engaged with theirs, they are our biggest trading partner.” If the coronavirus doesn’t get you, the fake news about it might Singapore’s tourist numbers from China have already fallen by 80 per cent since the outbreak as China has banned outbound group tours, according to national development minister Wong. But despite Chinese nationals making up 18 per cent of all tourism arrivals to Singapore last year, CIMB economist Song Seng Wun said the government’s move was akin to a “short, sharp pain”. Song said while the tourism and retail industries would be affected by the lack of Chinese visitors, the government’s precautionary measures would maintain business and consumer confidence in Singapore. “By taking a very drastic move like this, hopefully you just contain it to a few industries and, hopefully, you minimise the multiplier effect on the rest of the economy, such as the manufacturing industry which was just beginning to see green shoots of recovery,” he said. Song added that not having Chinese tourists in Singapore meant residents and other travellers would be able to get on with life as usual, and that would also limit the impact on tourism. “We won’t see all three towers of Marina Bay Sands Luxury Hotel empty, which was the case with many hotels during the Sars period. So it’s not a broad sweep of all hotel lights being switched off but just some lights being switched off.” Song said he was hopeful the economic impact could be limited to the first quarter this year and that it would rebound in the second quarter. The Sars outbreak in 2003 saw Singapore’s economy suffer an estimated loss of nearly US$5 billion, while its unemployment rate hit 4.8 per cent that year. Nigel Chua, who runs Founder Bak Kut Teh, said he was slightly worried about one of his outlets at Jalan Sultan in central Singapore since 35 per cent of customers there were Chinese tourists. “Maybe we will run promotions at that outlet so Singaporeans will come dine there,” he said. Alicia Seah, marketing communications director for tour agency Dynasty Travel, thinks the travel restriction will be “a short-term pain but a long-term gain”. “The sooner the government can get the virus under control, the sooner things can go back to normal. If the number of cases in Singapore does not escalate then other visitors will come.” Coronavirus: Asian countries weigh hit of restricting Chinese tourists Dynasty Travel will reduce costs by scaling down on advertising and marketing efforts as well as on running events. Singapore Airlines on Friday said it would reduce capacity on some of its routes to mainland China in February due to the growing coronavirus epidemic. On its Facebook page, it said the cuts included flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, some of which were flown by regional arm SilkAir. The airline’s low-cost unit Scoot said it would be suspending flights to 11 cities in China from early February until the end of March and would cut down on flights to eight other destinations in the country. Additional reporting by Dewey Sim Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). 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