Singapore Confirms First Case Of Coronavirus

Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on January 18, 2020.  STR / AFP

 

Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.

He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.

One of his travelling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.

Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said.

It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms “given the high volume of international travel”.

Singapore’s Changi Airport started screening flights from Wuhan at the beginning of the month, and on Wednesday extended the checks to all flights from China.

The travel hub receives over 430 flights from China every week.

The virus has caused alarm in China and abroad because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Singapore was among the hardest hit by SARS with 33 deaths.

AFP

US Approves $2.75bn Fighter Jet Sale To Singapore

 

 

The United States has approved the sale of up to 12 F-35 fighter jets — one of the most advanced warplanes ever built — to Singapore for around $2.75 billion, officials said Friday.

The city-state last year said it planned to buy four of the jets, with an option to purchase eight more, picking the Lockheed Martin model over rivals from Europe and China.

Despite its small size, Singapore has one of the region’s best-equipped armed forces and spends a large chunk of its national budget on defence.

The State Department had approved the jet sale, said the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, adding Congress had been notified and must now also give the green light.

“Singapore is a strategic friend and major security cooperation partner and an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the agency.

It added that the deal “will not alter the basic military balance in the region”.

The affluent city-state spent several years assessing which fighter jet should replace its aging fleet of F-16s before choosing the F-35s.

It is a supersonic plane whose advanced stealth characteristics allow pilots to avoid detection by radars, according to Lockheed Martin.

Its advanced electronic warfare capabilities enable pilots to locate and track enemy forces, jam radars and disrupt attacks.

The Singapore military also has F-15 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and submarines in its arsenal.

Top Ten Most Powerful Passports To Hold In 2020

 

 

The most powerful passport to carry in 2020 is a Japanese passport. 

This is according to a list by the Henley Passport Index which occasionally curates a list of the world’s most travel-friendly passports.

In its first report for the new decade, Japan has the most powerful passport availing those who possess it visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to about 191 destinations around the world.

The list also shows another Asian country – Singapore sitting in second place, with other European countries trailing right behind.

Below are the top ten most powerful passports to hold in 2020, according to the Henley Passport Index.

1. Japan

2. Singapore

3. Germany/ South Korea

4. Finland/Italy

5. Denmark/Luxemburg and Spain

6. France/Sweden

7. Austria/Ireland/Netherlands/ Portugal/ Sweden

8. Belgium/Greece/Norway/United Kingdom/United States

9. Australia/Canada/Czech Republic/Malta/New Zealand

10. Hungary/Lithuana/Slovakia/

According to the list, Nigeria ranks 95 alongside Djibouti. The nation is just above countries like South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Eritrea, Congo Democratic Republic, Bangladesh, and eleven other countries.

The Henley Passport Index ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Google Bans Political Ads In Singapore

 

 In this file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers' screens.
In this file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers’ screens.

 

Google has banned political ads in Singapore ahead of elections, an opposition party said Wednesday, sparking accusations the tech giant was “kowtowing” to the tightly-controlled city’s government.

The ban was imposed under controversial new rules aimed at fighting disinformation in the city-state, which critics fear could be used to stifle dissent.

General elections are widely expected within months and weak opposition parties are relying on social media to reach voters in a country where the mainstream media typically backs the long-ruling government.

But the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), a key opposition group, said that Google had refused their request to buy ads on the site.

Google had cited the new regulations, which prohibit adverts seeking to influence public opinion, according to correspondence between the US firm and the party posted on the SDP website by chairman Paul Tambyah.

“We have been highly dependent on social media and the internet to get our message across to the people of Singapore,” Tambyah said in a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

“This new policy is alarming and very disappointing.”

Ted Osius, Google’s vice president for government affairs and public policy, replied that banning political ads “was not an easy decision to make”, according to a copy of his letter posted by the party.

Google, which has its regional headquarters in Singapore, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tambyah’s party does not currently hold any seats in parliament, and the city’s fractious opposition groups are not seen as a threat to the long-ruling People’s Action Party.

Brad Bowyer, a member of another opposition group, the Progress Singapore Party, told AFP it was “very disheartening when the national media is controlled and now social media is kowtowing”.

Bowyer had to put up a correction by one of his Facebook posts last week after authorities ordered him to under the new law.

At the weekend, Facebook posted a correction by a post in Singapore for the first time after receiving an official request.

 

AFP

UK Ex-Headmaster Jailed In Singapore Over Drug Case

Vice Principal Gets Life Imprisonment For Raping 12-Year-Old In Ekiti
File Photo

 

A British former headmaster of an international school in China has been jailed for 10 months in Singapore after admitting possession and consumption of methamphetamine, officials said Tuesday.

Damien Michael Charnock used to be the head of Dulwich College Shanghai, a branch of the exclusive London private school.

Police arrested the 60-year-old in March at an apartment in the city-state and discovered bags containing the drug and a glass contraption for smoking it, according to court documents.

The case has echoes of hit American TV show “Breaking Bad”, which tells the story of a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and turns to making meth to raise money to secure his family’s future.

Charnock pleaded guilty to three drug charges, and the attorney-general’s chambers confirmed he was jailed on Friday.

His offences represented “a precipitous fall from grace”, defence lawyer Remy Choo was cited as saying by Singapore news outlet CNA.

“His life’s work as a talented and immensely devoted educator lies in tatters.”

He had been smoking crystal meth since 2017 and was employed as a curriculum developer at the time of the offences, the court documents said, without mentioning who his employer was.

Singapore — which has tough anti-narcotics laws — punishes consumption of methamphetamine with a jail term of up to 10 years, and a fine of up to Sg$20,000 ($14,700).

In an interview in 2015, Charnock said he was appointed to work at the Shanghai institution in 2014 after years as a headmaster at a school in London.

Dulwich College, founded in the 17th century, now has several branches in Asia, including in Singapore.

Super Eagles Train In Singapore For Brazil Match

A file photos of Super Eagles of Nigeria during a training session.

 

 

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have begun training sessions in Singapore ahead of Sunday’s international friendly match with five-time world champions Brazil.

Stoke City of England’s Oghenekaro Etebo was a late withdrawal from the roster, but all the other 21 players trained on Thursday morning and would train twice on Friday.

The official training session would take place on Saturday, with the match scheduled to kick off at 1pm Nigeria time the following day.

Eagles’ Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr has opted not to call any more players following the withdrawal of Etebo, and Wednesday’s withdrawal of defender Olaoluwa Aina as a result of injury.

The Franco-German already replaced defender Kenneth Omeruo with Tyronne Ebuehi, while Efosa Solomon-Otabor joined the camp following Samuel Kalu’s unavailability.

Solomon-Otabor and forward Peter Olayinka joined the team for the first time while Ebuehi returned for the first time since the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.

Former junior international midfielder Ramon Azeez also made a return, and defenders Abdullahi Shehu and Chidozie Awaziem, as well as midfielder Wilfred Ndidi also returned after missing the 2-2 draw with Ukraine in Dnipro in September.

See the names of the 21 Super Eagles to battle Brazil below:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Omonia FC, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC); Emil Maduka Okoye (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)

Defenders: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (CD Leganes, Spain); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Tyronne Ebuehi (SL Benfica, Portugal); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England)

Midfielders: Alexander Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Anderson Esiti (PAOK Salonica, Greece); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Ramon Azeez (Granada FC, Spain)

Forwards: Victor Osimhen (Lille OSC, France); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Efosa Solomon-Otabor (PFC CSKA Sofia, Bulgaria); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Emmanuel Dennis (Club Brugge, Belgium); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Prague, Czech Republic).

Brazil Names Strong Squad For Super Eagles Friendly

 

Five-time world champions, Brazil have named a strong squad made up of the likes of Neymar and Gabriel Jesus for next month’s friendly against the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Singapore.

The 23-man squad also has Manchester City’s goalkeeper, Ederson as well as Premier League stars, Roberto Firmino, Fabiano and Richarlison.

Coach Tite has also invited uncapped goalkeeper Santos, Renan Lodi and Matheus Henrique.

The Super Eagles and Selecao will clash for the second time on October 13 at the National Stadium in Singapore.

In 2003, Brazil defeated Nigeria 3-0 in a friendly game played in Abuja.

Relatives, Officials Attend Mass For Mugabe In Singapore

 

Relatives and government officials attended a mass for Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe in Singapore on Tuesday after arriving in the country where he died to collect his body.

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.

His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly tyrannical rule that sent the economy into ruin.

Family members and officials arrived in Singapore, where he was treated for several months before dying, early Tuesday on a chartered flight.

They are due to fly out with his body at around 8:30 am (0030 GMT) Wednesday, said his nephew Adam Molai.

The group, who included Vice President Kembo Mohadi, attended a private Catholic mass for Mugabe at the funeral parlour where his body is, officiated by a Zimbabwean priest.

The mood at the service was “sombre, everybody is sad”, said Molai.

“I will always remember the immense, immense contribution he made not only to the people of Zimbabwe but to the people of Africa,” he said.

Asked whether Mugabe had been bitter about being ousted, he said: “Everybody is human. When you go through an experience of that sort, of course you feel pain.”

Zimbabweans have been divided over how to mourn a former leader once hailed as a liberation hero but who later brutally repressed his opponents.

On arrival in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s body will be taken straight to his village in Kutama, in Zvimba district west of the capital Harare, for an overnight wake.

On Thursday and Friday the body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare township in Harare – where Mugabe took his oath of office – for the public to pay their final respects.

The official funeral will be held on Saturday at the giant 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare and foreign leaders are expected to attend.

The location of the burial remains unclear, with Mugabe’s family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government apparently at odds over whether it would be at his homestead northwest of Harare or at a shrine for liberation heroes in the capital.

Singapore To Ban Sale Of Elephant Ivory From 2021

FILE PHOTO: Cambodian Customs and Excise Officials looking at the ivory seized from a shipping container at the Phnom Penh port on December 13, 2018. Photo: BAN CHORK / AFP

 

Singapore said on Monday that it will impose a blanket ban on the domestic sale of elephant ivory and products from 2021 as the government tightens its campaign against illegal wildlife trade.

The announcement on World Elephant Day followed two years of consultations with non-government groups, ivory retailers and the public.

Authorities in the city-state made their largest ever seizure of smuggled ivory last month, impounding a haul of nearly nine tonnes of contraband tusks from an estimated 300 African elephants valued at $12.9 million.

The illegal cargo was discovered in a container from the Democratic Republic of the Congo being shipped to Vietnam via Singapore and also included a huge stash of pangolin scales.

Singapore has banned international trade in all forms of elephant ivory products since 1990.

Such items could be sold domestically if traders could prove they were imported before that year or acquired prior to the inclusion of the relevant elephant species in an international convention protecting endangered species.

In a statement Monday, Singapore’s National Parks Board banned the sale of elephant ivory and products with effect from September 1, 2021.

Violators face a jail term of up to one year and fines on conviction.

Traders can donate their ivory stocks to institutions or keep them after the ban takes effect, the board said.

Public consultation by the government last year showed that 99 percent of those who responded were in favour of a total ban.

Elephant ivory is coveted because it can be fashioned into items like combs, pendants and other jewellery.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after the population of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

AFP

‘Brownface’ Ad Sparks Anger In Singapore

This photo illustration shows a person looking on a computer screen at an advertisement featuring a local Chinese actor dressed as people of different ethnicities in Singapore on July 29, 2019.  Roslan RAHMAN / AF

 

An advertisement featuring an actor of Chinese origin with his skin darkened to portray different races has sparked anger in multi-ethnic Singapore, prompting an apology from the country’s state-owned broadcaster.

Race is a sensitive issue in Singapore, which is home to ethnic Chinese, ethnic Indians and Muslim Malays, as well as a large number of expatriates from all over the world.

The ad, part of a government-initiated campaign for cashless transactions in the tech-savvy city-state, featured actor Dennis Chew from broadcaster Mediacorp as four characters.

His skin was darkened to depict an Indian man and a Malay woman wearing a headscarf, and he also portrayed a Chinese man and a Chinese woman. Each character was shown holding a plate of food paid for electronically.

“Brownface in a Singaporean ad in 2019. I thought we already went over this,” magazine editor Ruby Thiagarajan said on Twitter, in a post that had been retweeted nearly 3,000 times by Monday.

“Brownface” or “blackface” are terms referring to the practice of darkening an actor’s skin to portray a person of a different race.

Mediacorp, through its celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency, apologised “for any hurt that was unintentionally caused”.

“The message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone,” it added.

The broadcaster would not confirm whether the ad had been pulled but it had disappeared from a website as well as some public places where it was displayed last week.

Most of the criticism centred on how the ad had used just one actor from the country’s main ethnic group, rather than getting other performers to play the different roles.

“They could have hired an artist for every single race?? Is it really hard?” one Twitter user said.

A Singaporean office worker told AFP she found the ad “very, very insensitive”, but other social media users said they thought there was nothing wrong with it.

“I don’t see the issue, don’t be too sensitive over ads like this,” one comment said.

Two Nigerians Charged Over Internet Scam In Singapore

 

Two Nigerian men believed to be members of an internet love scam syndicate were charged in Singapore on Tuesday with recruiting local women to collect money for them, police said.

Such scams, where victims part with cash after a fraudster feigns romantic interest in them, are a growing concern in the city-state with police reporting 660 cases last year.

The Nigerians — identified in local news reports as Oladayo Opeyemi Awolola, 34, and Gbolahan Ayobami Awolola, 37 — were arrested by Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur last month and sent to Singapore on Monday.

The men allegedly recruited two Singaporean women “as money mules to receive criminal proceeds linked to internet love scams in Singapore” between 2017 and 2018, according to a police statement.

The women received Sg$85,700 ($63,000) during that period and turned the money over to syndicate members in Malaysia, police said.

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The Nigerians could be jailed for up to five years each and fined if convicted.

It is the first time that suspects based overseas and involved in internet love scams have been arrested and sent to Singapore for prosecution, police said.

Most of the internet love scams reported last year in the city-state involved fraudsters claiming to have sent parcels containing luxury items or money.

Their local accomplices would call the “recipients” and claim the parcels were being held by the authorities for inspection, and would only be released if they transferred money to a bank account.

AFP

500 Evacuated As Fire Hits Hotel In Singapore, No Injuries

 

About 500 people were evacuated Wednesday after a fire at a luxury hotel in downtown Singapore but there were no injuries, emergency services officials said.

Television footage showed thick black smoke billowing from the Grand Hyatt Hotel near the Orchard Road shopping district, but the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said the fire was quickly put out.

The blaze involved a kitchen stove and an exhaust duct in a restaurant on the second floor, the SCDF said, adding it was extinguished by water sprinklers before firefighters arrived.

READ ALSO: Six Die In Mali Attacks As UN Urges End To ‘Spiral Of Violence’

“There were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation,” it said.

“The smoke was really terrible … it got into my throat. I think it was quite thick,” Nadiah Yayoh, 40, who works at a boutique in the hotel, told AFP.

“Usually we have fire drills and normal evacuations, as well as fire practice … This is a lesson learnt not to take it lightly.”

An AFP reporter on the scene said guests were still checking in around two hours after the blaze, but a burning smell lingered at the lobby and the second floor was dark.

It was the second luxury hotel fire in Singapore this year.

About 1,000 guests were evacuated due to a fire at the downtown Carlton Hotel on February 14, but no injuries were also reported.

AFP