Singapore Removed From World Health Organization List of SARS-Affected Areas

SINGAPORE -- Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Singapore is no longer listed among countries experiencing recent cases of local SARS transmission. Singapore's WHO de-listing, which took place at 12 a.m. in Singapore on May 31, is a key milestone in moving Singapore's tourism industry toward a sustainable recovery and is expected to prompt corporations and other organizations to review and remove travel restrictions to Singapore.

Dr. David Heymann, executive director for communicable diseases at WHO, passed the good news to Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) saying, "Singapore is no longer on the list of countries with recent local transmission (of SARS)." He also thanked the MOH for its "excellent collaboration these past months."

"From the start, Singapore's handling of its SARS outbreak has been exemplary," Heymann said. "This is an inspiring victory that should make all of us optimistic that SARS can be contained everywhere."

Singapore's change in status comes 20 days after the last locally acquired case of SARS was placed in isolation on May 11. The 20-day period represents twice the maximum incubation period.

"We are heartened that Singapore has become the third Asian country -- after Vietnam and The Philippines -- to be taken off the list of SARS-affected countries, and we certainly welcome this decision by the WHO," said Neo Chian Lim, deputy chairman and chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board. "The move by the WHO will help to put Singapore back on another important list - the list of key destinations around the world for business travelers, tourists and visitors."

Lim continued, "We welcome all visitors back to Singapore. Travelers will have the added comfort of knowing that even with this important milestone, Singapore's SARS precautionary measures and actions remain firmly in place, and Singapore's vigilance in containing SARS remains our first priority."

Prior to the WHO announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on May 8 that it lifted its SARS Travel Advisory for Singapore, revoking the prior recommendation against non-essential travel, and advising travelers that the Southeast Asian destination has met all CDC requirements for disease containment.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), in conjunction with the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH), has worked exhaustively during the past two months to establish Singapore as a "safe harbor" amid the SARS crisis, resulting in world recognition of Singapore's leadership role in SARS prevention and control.

The island-nation has won praise from the WHO and the CDC, as well as United States President George Bush and many other world leaders, for the way it has responded to the SARS outbreak and the tough measures put in place to contain the disease. Through its national efforts, Singapore quickly instituted: temperature checks through thermal imaging scanners at its airport, cruise center and border crossings; rigorous prevention measures in hotels and other tourism venues including restaurants and shopping centers; daily temperature checks for a wide cross-section of the community; and extensive public education on precautionary measures. In fact, the WHO recently approached Singapore to become a member of its global alert and response network, citing how impressed it was with the way Singapore has coped with SARS and the country's level of expertise.

Source: Singapore Tourism Board