COVID-19: Singapore confirms 47 more cases, new Westlite Toh Guan dormitory cluster

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed on Tuesday (31 March) 47 more coronavirus cases here and a new cluster at Westlite Toh Guan dormitory, bringing the country’s total to 926.

Separately, 22 patients are now in the intensive care unit, up from 19 on Monday.

The 47 new cases range from 21 to 86 years old. Of them, 16 are imported while 31 are local transmissions.

All imported cases, except two Singapore work pass holders and an Italian man, were Singapore residents returning from countries like Australia, Denmark, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Of the 31 local transmissions, 18 are unlinked. Of the remaining 13 cases, four Bangladeshi men are linked to a previous case, also a compatriot, forming a new cluster at Westlite Toh Guan dormitory at 18 Toh Guan Road East.

Another case is linked to the cluster at SingPost Centre at 10 Eunos Road 8, which now has a total of six confirmed cases, one of whom has fully recovered and has been discharged from hospital.

A SingPost spokesperson said that the latest case is a full-time employee with no contact with members of the public in his course of work.

The 39-year-old Singapore permanent resident is a team leader who primarily works at the mail sorting facility, in a staff-only area that cannot be accessed by the public and uses a separate staff entrance at the rear of the SingPost building.

He does not pass through the SingPost Centre shopping mall when he enters or leaves his workplace, said the spokesperson.

“We continue to work with the MOH on further contact tracing. The MOH has already served quarantine orders to a number of our employees who have been in contact with the previously confirmed cases,” the spokesperson added.

Changi General Hospital employee among new cases

Another linked case is a 22-year-old male Indian national who holds a long term pass and has no recent travel history. The man, identified as case 891, works at the Changi General Hospital (CGH) as a housekeeper.

He reported developing symptoms on 29 March and tested positive for the virus on Monday afternoon.

He is currently warded in an isolation room at the CGH. Prior to his hospital admission, he had gone to work for about two hours on Monday.

CGH chief executive officer Lee Chien Earn confirmed that the man had been asymptomatic until the evening of 29 March when he had respiratory symptoms.

The man later sought medical attention at the hospital’s accident & emergency department.

“He did not have any travel history and had adhered to precautionary measures such as wearing a surgical mask while performing housekeeping duties,” said Prof Lee.

“Contact tracing is in progress and necessary measures have been taken to mitigate the risk of potential spread of infection.”

No widespread community transmission

MOH Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak noted during a teleconference led by the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce that many cases were linked by social gatherings, being in the same household or colleagues in the workplace.

While there is “some level” of community transmission, it is not widespread, he added in the first digital press conference by the taskforce since its set up in late January.

One such example would be the 13 cases linked to live music bar Hero’s and Dover Court International School.

Case 192 was at the bar at 69 Circular Road on 10 March, a day after returning from the US, and on 14 March when a teacher of the school and case 670 was present.

(SOURCH: MOH)

Prof Mak also urged those who have been given a five-day medical certificate to take it “seriously” and not to participate in activities that will put others at risk.

“If you are not well, please also desist from visiting vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. The number of unlinked cases is a reflection of exposure that these people have had in the past,” Prof Mak said.

(SOURCE: MOH)
(SOURCE: MOH)
(SOURCE: MOH)
(SOURCE: MOH)

240 discharged, more than 4,700 quarantined

As of Tuesday, 12 more cases have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In total, 240 patients have fully recovered and been discharged.

Most of the remaining 423 hospitalised cases are stable or improving, while 22 are in critical condition in the intensive care unit. 260 cases who are clinically well but still test positive for the virus are isolated and cared for at Concord International Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital and the Community Isolation Facility at D’Resort NTUC.

Three have died from complications due to COVID-19 infection, with the latest fatality – a 70-year-old Singaporean man – succumbing to it on Sunday at 12.12pm.

The MOH also said that contact tracing is underway for 93 local transmissions with no links to previous cases or travel history to affected countries or regions. According to the ministry, 503 cases are imported, of which 53 are visitors.

As of Tuesday noon, the MOH has identified 13,452 close contacts who have been quarantined. Of these, 4,713 are currently quarantined, and 8,739 have completed their quarantine.

Singapore’s single-day high of 73 cases was reported last Wednesday.

On the same day, Health Minister and COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong said cases will similarly continue to rise, as some of around 200,000 overseas Singaporeans return home.

All Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning from overseas apart from Hubei province must serve the 14-day stay-home notice, while those returning from Hubei must serve a 14-day quarantine. All short-term visitors are barred from entering or transiting via Singapore.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who is also the taskforce co-chair, had described Singapore’s situation as being in a “critical phase” in its fight against the virus and noted the possibility for the introduction of more drastic measures as cases continue to rise.

These would include the suspension of schools and closure of some workplaces, aside from those providing essential services.

Stricter measures to cap social gatherings

Stricter measures were announced last Tuesday to combat community transmission of the virus, including capping social gatherings to 10 people or less as well as closing all entertainment venues – including bars, clubs and cinemas – from 11.59pm last Thursday till end-April, or longer.

Patients who flout their five-day medical leave can face steep penalties such as a fine of up to $10,000, according to the MOH’s latest updates to the Infectious Diseases Act.

Anyone who flouts the 14-day stay-home notice by leaving the place of accommodation or residence they are serving the notice in will also be subjected to such penalties.

Those on five-day MC or stay-home notice must wear a mask if they have to leave their place of accommodation to seek emergency medical treatment.

The same penalties also apply to those who intentionally sit on a seat or stand in a queue less than one metre away from another person in public venues, from now till end-April.

The Singapore government would allocate over $48 billion to combat the “unprecedented” COVID-19 crisis, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Ministerial Statement in Parliament last Thursday.

The sum is on top of the $6.4 billion Unity Budget announced by Heng in February that was meant to alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic.

To date, there are over to 803,000 COVID-19 cases globally. Over 39,000 have died from the virus, with the death tolls in Spain and Italy accounting for over half of the figure.

At over 164,000 cases, the US has risen to record the largest number of patients globally, followed by Italy at over 101,000 cases, Spain at over 94,000 and China at over 81,000.

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