Singapore will now be requiring citizens from Ebola-afflicted West African nations to file for visas before they can enter the sovereign city-state in Southeast Asian. The decree took effect on November 5. Apart from the temporary visa rule, Singapore’s health ministry has distributed Health Advisory Notices (HANs) to nationals from Ebola-affected African countries at all air, land and sea checkpoints. Travelers who self-declared their travel history to the Ebola-hit countries likewise received the same material. Travelers who are tested positive or even look unhealthy will be detained and quarantined for a maximum of 21 days under surveillance, depending on the nature of their potential exposure. Because Singapore is being cautious, they will now also start temperature screening on passengers arriving at Changi Airport. Passengers that have fevers will be sent to the hospital by an ambulance for further assessment.
Agence France-Presse, “Singapore requires visa for Ebola-stricken African states,” Raw Story, November 3, 2014.
Student Researcher: Lisa Chan, Indian River State College
Faculty Advisor: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
I personally believe that the reason Singapore would require citizens from Ebola-affected West African nations, namely Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra, to file for visas now is because they have to be extra cautious. Some people do not agree with this decision made by Singapore because they think it’s “unfair.” To take extra caution, to protect their own nation from being infected and spreading it even more, it is a safe and right choice to require visas. Requiring visa from these three African nations does not mean that people from these nations cannot enter Singapore; it just means that there can be better monitoring of them.
However, perhaps these measures have not gone far enough. What about required quarantines of such travelers before they are permitted into a nation such as Singapore, or the U.S.? Some questions have been raised such as “what if an American citizen or Doctor went over to an Ebola-afflicted West African nation to do research and now needs to go back to the U.S. to further his or her research?” Or “what if that person has family over in America and needs to return immediately to take care of them?” From a broad utilitarian perspective, where the public welfare of a nation is at stake, it may not matter what situation that person is in; he or she should still not be permitted back into the nation without first being placed in quarantine for 21 days. It is common sense to keep such a person from infecting other citizens. Further, if individuals already have the disease, it seems to be common sense to prevent them from returning. For example, regarding the two medical missionaries who were recently flown back to America from Liberia to Georgia’s top ranked hospital for intensive care, why could these individuals not have been treated in Liberia instead of risking potential exposure of others in the United States? If the idea of fighting the disease at its source makes any sense at all, why would this not have been applied to these two individuals?
In Singapore, back in 2003, there was an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), causing 33 deaths and major economic loss. So Singapore did not want another outbreak of an even worse disease, causing more panic and more economic loss. They sought instead to protect themselves from another outbreak. This has nothing to do with racism, or religion or any other form of unfair discrimination. Statistics show that Ebola has claimed more than 4,900 lives in West Africa. So why put America, Singapore, or other Ebola-free nations in danger?
Another thing that Singapore mentioned doing was doing temperature screenings on passengers. Overseas, it is normal for them to do such things. When I was overseas and got off a ferry from traveling back to Hong Kong from Macau, authorities stopped my uncle and scanned his face and checked his temperature to make sure he was not sick or carrying any diseases from Macau back to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an overpopulated area that cannot risk mistakes that can cause an epidemic. Taking precautions is always a good thing.
In conclusion, it is sound policy for Singapore to require visas now from Ebola-affected West African nations. America does not presently require this but it should, in order to guard against an epidemic in the U.S.