Singapore sees most local coronavirus cases in 3 months, more of new variant

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A healthcare worker receives the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore reported five locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Thursday, its highest number in nearly three months, and was seeking to verify two others suspected of being infected by a highly contagious variant first discovered in Britain.

The two individuals believed to be infected with the B117 variant, which has prompted new travel curbs worldwide, had both arrived from Britain this month and had earlier tested negative, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Those included a commercial airline pilot who developed coronavirus symptoms despite a negative test last week, and an individual who had tested positive despite earlier completing two weeks of quarantine.

"Epidemiological investigations are in progress," the health ministry said on Wednesday.

"All the identified close contacts of the cases have been isolated and placed on quarantine, and will be tested at the start and end of their quarantine period so that we can detect asymptomatic cases."

Though Singapore has recorded more than 58,000 infections and 29 coronavirus-related deaths overall, many were in outbreaks in crowded migrant dormitories.

Its locally transmitted cases have typically been less than a handful each week, with larger numbers imported and detected in quarantine. Singapore reported 25 new imported cases on Thursday.

It last week confirmed its first case of the variant first found in Britain and preliminary tests indicated 11 others in quarantine were also infected with it.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Martin Petty)