There has been much confusion over various precautionary measures implemented to protect public health and contain the spread of COVID-19. Here’s a no-nonsense overview of the three precautionary measures in force today – and what it means for you, your company, and those whom you live with.
All information is collated from the COVID-19 advisories by the Minister of Health and Ministry of Manpower and are accurate at the time of writing. We will update this article as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. You can also refer to the respective ministries’ websites for the latest information.
Battling COVID-19 With Quarantine Order, Stay-Home Notice And Leave Of Absence
The Quarantine Order (QO), Stay-Home Notice (SHN), Leave of Absence (LOA) are precautionary measures meant to help keep COVID-19 at bay.
QO, SHN and LOA are in decreasing order of strictness, with the QO being the most restrictive and penalty for non-compliance being most severe.
Here’s a summary of the differences between the three measures:
Since they are precautionary, they are issued to people who don’t yet show symptoms. Regardless of which precautionary measure you’re issued with, if you exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, you can and should immediately get tested and treated.
What Is A COVID-19 Quarantine Order?
A Quarantine Order (QO) is a legal order meant to isolate an individual who is suspected to be a carrier of an infectious disease, or close contact of someone confirmed to have an infectious disease, in this case, COVID-19.
Most individuals who received a QO serve their quarantine at home, but if they do not have suitable accommodation, they can also serve it in Government Quarantine Facilities (GQFs).
Those on a QO cannot leave their home or GQF and must not have contact with others. No visitors will be allowed to persons on QO, and all food and essential supplies will be delivered to them. QO persons need to monitor their temperature, and report their health status to their QO agent via video call at least 3 times a day.
Since a QO is issued under the Infectious Diseases Act, non-compliance comes with severe penalties. Auxiliary Police officers are deployed to spot check and ensure compliance with the QO at homes and at GQF.
If you’re on a QO, you are deemed to be on paid hospitalisation leave, as part of employees’ hospitalisation leave entitlements.
Additionally, the Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme provides a $100 claim for each day under QO to help mitigate the financial impact of a QO. Both self-employed individuals and companies with employees served with a QO may claim this allowance.
Self-employed individuals must be a Singapore Citizen or PR and cannot break the terms of their QO. Companies that wish to claim this allowance must be registered in Singapore, and their employee who is served a QO must be a Singapore Citizen, PR or workpass holder who honours the terms of their QO. The company must also show that they continue to pay this employee during the QO period.
Persons on QO who are unemployed and require financial assistance can contact their QO agent for help.
What Is A COVID-19 Stay-Home Notice?
A Stay-Home Notice (SHN) is a precautionary measure for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who are returning from countries and areas deemed to be of higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
As of writing, the list includes:
a) from 18 February 2020, 2359 hrs, with travel history to mainland China (outside of Hubei province) in the last 14 days;
b) from 26 February 2020, 2359 hrs with travel history to Daegu city (Republic of Korea) or Cheongdo county (Republic of Korea) in the last 14 days;
c) from 4 March 2020, 2359 hrs with travel history to Iran, northern Italy, the Republic of Korea in the last 14 days;
d) from 15 March 2020, 2359 hrs with travel history to Italy, France, Spain and Germany in the last 14 days;
e) from 16 March 2020, 2359 hrs with recent travel history to ASEAN countries besides Singapore (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia*, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), Japan, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom in the last 14 days.
* SHN does not apply to travellers from Malaysia who enter Singapore via land and sea crossings. The government has stated that this is in consideration of the high volume of people moving across checkpoints and that separate arrangements are being discussed by officials on both sides.
It is important to note that the 14-day SHN is a precautionary measure, and those served with SHN are not deemed to be close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 carriers. While on SHN, you should monitor your health closely and seek medical attention promptly if unwell.
Persons on SHN have to remain in their place of residence at all times, and will need to make their own arrangements for food and daily essentials, such as requesting family members to help deliver food, or make use of food delivery services.
Those on SHN should minimise contact with other people living in the same residence, such as limiting time spent together at common areas and having staggered meal and toilet times if possible. Persons on SHN should not invite visitors to their residence.
From a work perspective, companies should as far as possible support the employee to still perform their work duties from home. If that is not possible, the employee can use their time-off or annual leave to cover the SHN period, or take unpaid leave. If the employer grants additional leave for the SHN period, and did not require the use of the employee’s own time-off or annual leave, the employer can apply for a $100 allowance per day under the LOA/SHN Support Programme (LOASP).
Failure to comply with the SHN and putting the community at risk may lead to the loss of one’s PR status and being barred from re-entry into Singapore, workpass or student pass revocation, or even prosecution under the Infectious Diseases Act.
What Is A COVID-19 Leave Of Absence?
The Leave of Absence (LOA) is a precautionary measure for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders who are returning from mainland China. Like the SHN, the 14-day LOA is served to those not deemed to be close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 carriers.
Those on LOA are advised to comply with the LOA to prevent possible transmission of infections. They should remain in their residences as much as possible, but are allowed to leave the premises for food and groceries or to attend important matters, though they should minimise time spent in public places. While on LOA, you should monitor your health closely and seek medical attention promptly if unwell.
Just like the SHN, those on LOA should minimise contact with other people living in the same residence, such as limiting time spent together at common areas and having staggered meal and toilet times if possible. Visitors are allowed, but should be minimised and good records kept of whom they came into close contact with.
From a work perspective, companies should as far as possible support the employee to still perform their work duties from home. If that is not possible, the employee can use their time-off or annual leave to cover the LOA period, or take unpaid leave. If the employer grants additional leave for the LOA period, and did not require the use of the employee’s own time-off or annual leave, the employer can apply for a $100 allowance per day under the LOA/SHN Support Programme (LOASP).
The LOA is an advisory, and not a legally-binding order, so there isn’t penalties spelt out for non-compliance. However, remember that endangering public health is most definitely an offence, LOA or not, so we should always exercise prudence and do our part to protect the community.
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