SINGAPORE: Two patients in Singapore have died from complications due to COVID-19, the first deaths in the country linked to the infection.
The patients – a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and 64-year-old Indonesian man – died on Saturday morning (Mar 21), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
The woman, known as Case 90, was linked to the cluster at The Life Church and Missions Singapore.
She had a history of chronic heart disease and hypertension and had not travelled recently to affected countries and regions, the ministry said.
Before being admitted to hospital, the woman mostly stayed in her home at Bishan Street 12.
She reported the onset of symptoms on Feb 9 and was admitted on Feb 23 to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for pneumonia. She tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day.
She developed serious complications and died on Saturday at about 7.50am, after 26 days in the ICU.
The second patient, known as Case 212, was a 64-year-old Indonesian man with a history of heart disease.
He reported the onset of symptoms on Mar 9 and had been hospitalised in a hospital in Indonesia for pneumonia.
He arrived in Singapore on Mar 13 and sought treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, and was admitted in critical condition to NCID on the same day. Test results confirmed the COVID-19 infection the following day.
He developed serious complications and died on Saturday at 10.15am, after nine days in the ICU.
He was also a contact of Case 289, a 62-year-old Singapore man.
"I know Singaporeans will be worried and anxious. We must take courage and not give in to our fears," Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told reporters.
"We have announced a series of safe distancing measures yesterday, and we must all take the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and our families safe," he said.
Explore our interactive: All the COVID-19 cases in Singapore and the clusters and links between them
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed his condolences in a Facebook post and said there could be more deaths from COVID-19 in Singapore.
"As we get more COVID-19 cases, more patients will need ICU care, and we must brace ourselves for more losses," he said.
Singapore on Friday announced 40 new COVID-19 cases, of which 30 were imported infections.
This brings the number of infections in the country to 385, including 131 patients who have fully recovered.
The Government is doing all it can to slow the spread of the virus, said Mr Lee, urging Singaporeans to support and comply with the measures that have been put in place.
Expressing her "deepest condolences" to the families of the two who had died, President Halimah Yacob also voiced her appreciation to the healthcare workers who had cared for them.
"My deepest appreciation too to all our healthcare workers who had worked so hard looking after them and who must be deeply affected by the loss," she said. "They must not be disheartened, as they have done their best and because of that, many others who were infected had recovered and were discharged from our hospitals and safely returned to their families."
The president called for members of the public to do more to prevent the spread of the virus.
"As individuals and collectively, we could do a lot more to keep ourselves, our friends, neighbours and families safe," she said, echoing the World Health Organization's recent call for young people in particular to be more vigilant.
Mr Gan called on Singaporeans to stay united and look out for each other. "This way, by staying together, we will be able to prevail and overcome COVID-19," he said.
MOH said it has reached out to the patients' families and is extending help to them.
The Life Church and Missions Singapore expressed its condolences in a statement on their website on Saturday afternoon.
"The whole church shares the grief together with the family of the deceased ... As this is one of the first COVID-19 deaths in Singapore, we are not sure what can or cannot be done with regard to the funeral arrangements," it said.
READ: All events, gatherings with 250 participants or more must be suspended to reduce further COVID-19 spread: MOH
The church said it encourages members who are currently sick to stay home and live-stream its services to ensure the well-being of congregants.
Temperature checks and hygiene procedures will continue to be conducted before meetings, with chairs and surfaces being cleaned with disinfectant after every service.
There are usually fewer than 250 congregants at its services, it added, referring to new safe distancing guidelines that prohibit large public events until Jun 30.
"In line with the new government directives, we will also encourage members to sit one seat apart, and for families to sit together," it said.
To reduce the risk of further local transmissions, authorities on Friday ordered all events and gatherings with 250 or more participants to be suspended.
New safe distancing measures were introduced for public venues such as shops and restaurants to ensure separation of at least 1m between customers.
A new TraceTogether mobile app was also launched to help with contact tracing efforts.
The novel coronavirus is believed to have started in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province late last year, but has spread to more than 100 countries.
It has since killed more than 11,000 people and infected more than 260,000 worldwide. While the rate of infection in China has slowed, the outbreak is now spreading rapidly in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe and the US.
Singapore has advised its citizens to avoid all overseas travel, and anyone entering the country will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice.