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DFA cautions Pinoys in Singapore vs Zika virus

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday alerted all Filipinos living and visiting Singapore to avoid crowded places after the city-state confirmed 41 cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection, particularly in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area.

The department’s Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said they have instructed their embassy personnel in Singapore to “immediately issue an advisory to the Filipino community to take precautionary measure to minimize the risk of being infected with the deadly virus”.

The Singapore government, through its Ministry of Health (MOH), has recently confirmed 41 Zika virus cases.

To reduce the risk of Zika infection, Jose urged Filipinos to use insect repellants and put up window and door screens; wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; and read up on the symptoms of Zika.

He advised those who exhibit symptoms to go to the nearest hospital for a check-up.

Meanwhile, he encouraged health workers to strictly comply with infection control protocols in their work place.

“If you have tested positive for Zika, inform the Philippine Embassy immediately (6737-3977 or 9072-2797) so that the Embassy can render appropriate assistance,” Jose said. According to the advisory of Singapore’s MOH, those living in affected areas, especially pregnant women, should monitor their health.

Australia, Taiwan and South Korea advised pregnant women and those attempting to get pregnant to avoid travel to Singapore after an outbreak of the Zika virus infected more than 50 people in the city-state.

The outbreak and the warnings come as a potential blow to tourism in one of the world’s busiest travel hubs, which is already struggling to recover from a slump amid tepid global growth.

Taiwan, Australia and South Korea advised pregnant women and those planning pregnancy to postpone trips to Singapore. Those returning from the country should avoid pregnancy for two months. South Korean travelers will receive text messages with the warning when they arrive in Singapore.

Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore’s closest neighbors, have stepped up protective measures following the outbreak, introducing thermal scanners at airports and border checkpoints.

Singapore’s Tourism Board said it was monitoring developments, adding the city state remained a “safe travel destination”, and it was premature to consider any impact.

More than 55 million people pass through Singapore’s Changi airport every year. In the first half of this year, tourism arrivals reached almost 8.2 million, compared with around 7.3 million in the same period of last year.

Online retailer Lazada Singapore said on Tuesday it has seen sales of mosquito repellent and other deterrent products rise fivefold over the past three days compared to a week ago. (PNA/Reuters)