Zika outbreak hits businesses, as people avoid crowds

KELLY NG Today Online 1 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Since news broke of the cluster of locally-transmitted Zika cases in the Aljunied-Sims Drive area on Monday (Aug 29), businesses in the area have taken a hit as potential customers, including those from nearby precincts, stay away from crowded spots.

Still, life has largely gone on as usual for the residents, who have found their neighbourhood come under the national spotlight. They are calm about the situation, although some are paying closer attention to ridding their living environment of potential mosquito breeding sites.

Ms Lian Sok Tin, who sells prawn noodles at the Sims Vista Market & Food Centre with her husband, said they have seen sales drop by about a third since Monday, when the Ministry of Health announced there were 41 confirmed locally-transmitted Zika cases there.

“Once it was out in the news, this market has been very quiet ... We have been earning about S$100 less each day this week,” said the 66-year-old, whose noodles are priced at S$3 to S$4 a bowl.

The couple will take the day off on Thursday, in view of the lacklustre sales. “No point coming in, we will just take the chance to rest,” said her husband.

A 62-year-old fruit stallholder at the market who only wanted to be known as Mr Tan said he intends to order less stock as sales are expected to dwindle further after the seventh lunar month festivities.

“Fruits are perishable, we will definitely decrease our orders since we are not able to sell them,” he said.

Over at Geylang East Centre Market & Food Corner, vendors told TODAY footfall has dropped by about a quarter in the last three days, with more patrons opting to pack their meals rather than dine in.

Mrs Chen, who sells dried foodstuff at the market, said the Zika outbreak was a last straw to the already dire sales at the market.

“Business here has already been going down over the years, for us, it has never been worse than it was in the last 30 years,” she said. Mrs Chen, who starts work before daybreak, says she typically wraps up at 11.30am but now has to stay open at least an hour longer to push for more sales.

Others in the services sector, like Jian Kang Hao foot reflexology centre at Block 113 Aljunied Avenue 2, said they still see regulars and business has remained stable.

Ms Weeko Lee, a property agent who lives in nearby Joo Chiat, said she is avoiding the area, especially when he is out with her children. She has a daughter aged 13 and son, 11, who was just discharged from being warded with dengue fever.

Construction worker Zhao Ah Ping, 45, who stays at a rented apartment in Geylang, also said he “will definitely try to avoid the area” after reading about the Zika outbreak in Singapore. “Of course I am worried of being infected,” he added.

Most local residents interviewed by TODAY said they are not alarmed about the situation.

For instance, Madam Anisha, who operates Ramadhan Minimart at Block 53 Sims Drive and lives at the same block, said her family has stocked up on mosquito repellant and insecticides, but life goes on.

“We read that the symptoms are quite mild, except for those who are pregnant, so we take care but also cannot panic unnecessarily,” she said.

Since confirmed cases were reported in new areas around Paya Lebar Way/Kallang Way on Tuesday, officers from the National Environment Agency were also seen making their rounds in the region and fumigating some places. These include Block 120 Paya Lebar Way, where one of the newly confirmed cases lives, and MacPherson Primary School.

On Wednesday afternoon, announcements were made through the school’s PA system advising students to make their way home before fogging of “the entire school compound” commenced.

Meanwhile, residents in the affected areas — including family members of patients diagnosed Zika positive — are also stepping up precautions to keep their households mosquito-free.

Mr Mohamed Yusoff, whose third daughter (out of four) was diagnosed with the infection on Monday, said his family is stepping up its daily cleaning routine by washing utensils more thoroughly, dousing themselves with mosquito repellant, and looking out for stagnant water in the common areas.

“We will also advise the neighbours to clean up when we see them,” said the 51-year-old who works at Certis Cisco.

Zika in Singapore a threat to Riau Islands tourism
Fadli The Jakarta Post 31 Aug 16;

Travel warnings issued by several countries for Singapore over the spread of the Zika virus could have a negative impact on tourism in Riau Islands as most foreign tourists enter the province through the city-state, officials said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday the United States joined South Korea, Australia and Taiwan by issuing travel warnings for citizens visiting Singapore following the discovery of Zika infections, local media reported.

Most tourists visit Riau Island's famous destinations of Batam, Bintan and Karimun through Singapore, the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies’ Batam office head, Andika, said on Wednesday.

The impact of the travel warnings would be seen in the next 15 days, he said, adding that despite the warnings, people who had booked trips would be unlikely to cancel. However, those who were only thinking of going to Singapore might change their minds.

"We hope Singapore can soon handle Zika virus issues. The longer the problem, it will put us in a more difficult situation," Andika told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Riau Islands Tourism Agency head Guntur Sakti said around 99 percent of Riau Islands’ annual 2 million foreign visitors entered via Singapore. Tourists from South Korea and Taiwan are among the top foreign visitors to the province after those from Singapore, Malaysia and India.

With the spread of Zika in Singapore, Guntur feared the province's target of 2.6 million foreign tourists this year might not be reached. Aside from the virus, the crackdown on a terrorist cell in Batam in July could also contribute to lower visitors numbers, Guntur added. (rin)

Paramedics on alert at Batam ports over Zika
Fadli The Jakarta Post 31 Aug 16;

The Health Ministry has ordered 193 paramedics to be on alert at eight seaports in Batam, Bintan and Karimun in Riau Islands in anticipation of the Zika virus entering the country through visitors from Singapore.

Passengers traveling from Singapore are being subjected to thermal scans to measure their body temperatures. They are also being given forms for them to fill out explaining their physical condition.

The measures have been taken following the reports that 56 people had contracted the Zika virus in Singapore.

Riau Islands Health Agency head Tjejep Yudiana told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that since the discovery of the Zika infections in Singapore his team had coordinated with the seaport health offices in Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

Of the 193 paramedics on duty, he said, 95 were assigned to five international seaports in Batam, 57 were assigned to two seaports in Bintan and the remaining 41 were assigned to a port in Karimun.

“As a region bordering with Singapore we are prepared to anticipate the entrance of the Zika virus into Riau Islands through passengers coming from that country,” Tjejep said.

He said his office had also designated three hospitals in the region as reference hospitals for Zika cases should the virus be detected in passengers. The three hospitals are Embung Fatimah Batam hospital, the provincial administration-owned hospital in Tanjungpinang and the RSUD Karimun hospital.

“Since Monday the thermal scanners at all international seaports have been reactivated. This is an anticipatory measure,” Tjejep said.

Separately, head of the Batam city seaport health office, Anas Makruf, said two of their thermal scanning devices were damaged so manual scanning was being conducted.

The manual scanning, he said, involved scanning passengers’ faces to measure their body temperatures.

Anas also said all passengers arriving in Batam were required to fill out forms on their medical histories to monitor the health condition of the respective passengers through recording high temperatures, sore eyes, rashes or headaches.

“If, based on the record cards, they have two out of the four indicators, then we will examine them further,” Anas said.

Anas said the source of the Zika virus found in Singapore was not yet known, but it may have spread after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Brazil.

“It’s the authority of Singapore to investigate, but certainly Zika virus was first found in Brazil,” Anas said.

He added that the health office at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport had also conducted intensive health examinations of Indonesia’s Olympics team upon their arrival.

“The team so far has been declared clear based on the examinations by the health office at Soekarno-Hatta airport,” Anas said.

Six Johor entry points ramp up Zika screening
Today Online 31 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Six entry points into Johor are stepping up health screening after the detection of the Zika virus here.

The Johor Health and Environment committee has deployed extra teams from the state’s health and immigration departments to work around the clock at the six locations conducting checks, according to The Star on Wednesday (Aug 31).

The six entry points affected by the enhanced checks are Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex, Sultan Abu Bakar CIQ, Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Johor Port, Stulang Laut Ferry Terminal and Puteri Harbour Ferry Terminal.

Johor Health and Environment committee chairman Ayub Rahmat said on Tuesday that “visitors entering or exiting via any of the six entry points will have to pass a screening device to check their body temperature”.

Those registering a body temperature of above 37°C will have to undergo a health examination, he added.

Mr Ayub also advised motorists to spray the inside of their vehicles with insecticide as an extra preventative measure.

He said an estimated 50,000 vehicles enter and exit through the Sultan Iskandar CIQ Complex each day.

“While we do not want people to take the Zika issue lightly, we also do not want to cause panic,” he said

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