COVID-19: Singapore confirms 5 new cases, 3 linked to Grace Assembly of God; total 72

Visitors walk through temperature screening at the Singapore Airshow. (PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Saturday (15 February) confirmed five new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus infection in Singapore, bringing the total number of cases here to 72.

Of these, three are linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God, while one is linked to the cluster at Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site. The fifth case is linked to a previous case.

There are at least five such identified clusters here, including the church as well as those associated with health products shop Yong Thai Hang along Cavan Road, The Life Church, and Missions Singapore in Paya Lebar, a business meeting at the Grand Hyatt hotel and the construction site at Seletar Aerospace Heights.

One patient has been discharged from hospital since the previous MOH update on Friday. In all, 18 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospital.

Of the 54 confirmed cases who are still in hospital, most are stable or improving. Six are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Case 68, 70, 71: Family members and contact with Case 66

Case 68 is a 79-year-old female Singapore citizen with no recent travel history to China. She is a family member of Case 66, a 28 year-old male Singaporean who is linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God.

Case 70, a 27-year-old female Singaporean, is also a family member of Case 66, while Case 71 is a 25-year-old male Singaporean who is a contact of Case 66. Both have no recent travel history to China.

Case 66 is currently warded in an isolation room at the National Centre of Infectious Diseases (NCID). He had reported onset of symptoms on 29 January and had sought treatment at a clinic on 2 February, 5 February and Wednesday.

He was referred to NCID on 12 February. Subsequent test results confirmed COVID-19 infection on Friday morning.

Prior to hospital admission, he had gone to work at Grace Assembly of God, and attended church services at God’s Kingdom Bread of Life Church at Jalan Pemimpin. He stays at Mei Hwan Drive.

Case 69, 72: Bangladesh work-pass holder, contact of Case 59

Case 69 is a 26-year-old Bangladesh national who is a Singapore work-pass holder, and has no recent travel history to China. He is linked to the cluster at Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site.

Case 72 is a 40-year-old male Chinese national who is a Singapore work-pass holder, and has no recent travel history to China. He is a non-medical contact of Case 59, a 61-year-old Singaporean man who works at a private unnamed hospital in Singapore.

Case 64: Unknown link is a taxi driver

Case 64, a 50-year-old male Singaporean, had no known links to any of the local clusters when first reported on Friday. It is now established that he is a taxi driver who stays at Jurong West Street 81. He had been working prior to admission.

He reported onset of symptoms on 3 February and had sought treatment at two clinics on 5 February, 7 February, Monday and Wednesday. He was referred to the emergency department at National University Hospital (NUH) on Wednesday, and test results confirmed COVID-19 infection on Thursday morning. He is now warded in an isolation room in NUH.

As of 12pm on Saturday, 812 of the suspect cases have tested negative for COVID-19, and 72 have tested positive. Test results for the remaining 107 cases are pending.

Contact tracing for the confirmed cases is ongoing. Once identified, MOH will closely monitor all close contacts. As a precautionary measure, they will be quarantined for 14 days from their last exposure to the patient.

In addition, all other identified contacts who have a low risk of being infected will be under active surveillance, and will be contacted daily to monitor their health status.

As of 12pm on Saturday, MOH has identified 2,093 close contacts. Of the 1,959 who are still in Singapore, 1,697 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining 262 close contacts.

COVID-19’s death toll surpasses SARS epidemic

The novel strain belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-2003 outbreak and also started in China.

It likely originated from Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market, where live animals or products – such as foxes, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, porcupines, and camel meat – are sold.

Declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 has spread to 28 territories beyond mainland China. The WHO also said that cases being transmitted by people who have never travelled to China could be the "tip of the iceberg".

By territory, Singapore has the second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases after mainland China.

The global tally includes cruise ship Diamond Princess, moored off Japan, which has 285 cases. Five Singaporeans on board the ship have reported that they are physically well, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson on Wednesday, in response to Yahoo News Singapore’s queries.

As of Friday, more than 1,500 people have died of the virus in China, sickening over 66,000 people. The last two days saw a steep rise in the number of cases after a change in diagnostic methods in the country.

Four territories – Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and France – have each reported the death of a patient infected with the virus.

Patients suffering from the new strain may exhibit fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness – such as coughing or difficulty in breathing – as well as pneumonia-like symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, and headache.

However, some who have died from it have not displayed symptoms of fever, according to details released by China’s National Health Commission, potentially complicating global efforts to check for infected travellers as they arrive at airports and other travel hubs.

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COVID-19: Singapore confirms 9 new cases, 6 linked to Grace Assembly of God church; total at 67