SINGAPORE: Singapore reported 623 new cases of COVID-19 as of noon and one more death on Friday (Apr 17), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in its daily update.
The total number of infections in the country now stands at 5,050, with 11 deaths.
The deceased was a 95-year-old Singaporean male who died from complications related to the disease on Friday, said MOH. Identified as case 3145, he was confirmed to have COVID-19 on Apr 13.
"Raffles Hospital has reached out to his family and is extending assistance to them," said the ministry.
Of the new cases announced on Friday, 69 per cent are linked to previously identified clusters while the rest are pending contact tracing.
A total of 558 new cases are from foreign worker dormitories, while 37 are work permit holders residing outside dormitories.
As for local cases in the community, 27 cases were reported on Friday, and there was one imported case.
MOH added that 25 more patients have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 708 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged.
Since the "circuit breaker" was implemented on Apr 7, the number of new cases in the community has decreased, "from an average of 40 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 32 per day in the past week", the health ministry said.
"The circuit breaker measures appear to have helped, but we still have to monitor carefully the numbers over the next few days," said MOH.
"We are particularly concerned that it is increasingly difficult to link the new cases and identify the source of infection."
It noted that the number of unlinked cases in the community has increased slightly to an average of 22 per day in the past week, from an average of 19 cases per day in the previous week.
MOH said it has been detecting new cases by testing "a small sample of patients at our primary care facilities" for COVID-19 as part of an ongoing surveillance programme.
This indicates the presence of undetected cases in the community, added MOH.
A nurse at Bright Vision Hospital has caught the coronavirus. The 34 year-old Malaysian was in her home country from Jan 29 to Apr 8.
She had not gone to work since she reported onset of symptoms on Wednesday, as she had been on stay-home notice.
Subsequent test results confirmed COVID-19 infection on Thursday. She is currently warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
Four new clusters were identified by the ministry: Tuas South Dormitory, Avery Lodge Dormitory, Jurong Penjuru Dormitory and 4 Sungi Kadut Street 2.
PREPARE FOR A "LONG FIGHT"
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said Singaporeans have to be prepared for a "long fight" with COVID-19 that may last "many more months, and likely beyond the end of the year".
"We have to be prepared for future waves of infection and we have to steel ourselves for a long fight," he said in a Facebook post on Friday.
The minister, who is part of the Multi-ministry Task Force to combat COVID-19, said the number of cases among foreign workers should be expected to remain high as authorities continue to actively test and isolate workers who caught the coronavirus.
"The vast majority of the workers are young, and they tend to have very mild cough/cold symptoms that are not picked up by temperature taking alone.
"So the teams are working doubly hard to sweep through the dorms and test the workers, and this is also the reason why we are seeing such high reported cases every day," he said in a Facebook post on Friday.
"We have to expect the numbers to remain high for some time as we continue this effort to swab, test and isolate the workers."
Calling the efforts "a massive undertaking", Mr Wong said many frontline workers including military and police officers, Manpower Ministry officials, as well as doctors and nurses are "going all out to suppress the virus outbreak in the foreign worker dormitories".
He added that most of the infected foreign workers have mild illness, and that none of them has needed intensive care.
The authorities are "rapidly expanding" community care facilities - including one at the Singapore Expo - to care for the infected workers, as well as preparing additional accommodation to house those who have fully recovered, said Mr Wong.
READ: Life at the Singapore Expo - A COVID-19 patient shares his experience in a community isolation facility
MORE DORMS GAZETTED, EMPLOYERS FINED OVER TRANSPORT OF WORKERS
A large proportion of Singapore's COVID-19 cases can be traced back to foreign worker dormitories, which have seen a surge in confirmed cases recently.
Three more foreign worker dormitories - Tuas View Dormitory, Shaw Lodge Dormitory and North Coast Lodge - were declared as isolation areas under the Infectious Diseases Act, with effect from Friday.
A total of 12 foreign worker dormitories have now been gazetted as isolation areas.
READ: Two weeks and a 70-fold increase: A look into the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore's foreign worker dormitories
On Friday, the Ministry of Manpower announced that 28 employers had been fined S$1,000 and another four were under investigation for not complying with safe distancing measures while ferrying workers in lorries.
With immediate effect, transport companies and drivers will also be fined if they do not comply with safe distancing regulations when ferrying workers in lorries, the ministry said.