SINGAPORE: Singapore reported nine more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday (Feb 14), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a daily update.
Of them, six are linked to a cluster from the Grace Assembly of God church, director of medical services at MOH Kenneth Mak said at a press conference.
This brings the total number of novel coronavirus cases in Singapore to 67, with six patients in critical condition.
Two more patients, case 30 and 45, have been discharged from hospital as of Friday, meaning 17 people have now fully recovered from the disease.
Case 30 is a 27-year-old man who attended a private business meeting at Grand Hyatt Singapore, which has also been identified as a cluster, while case 45 is a two-year-old girl who was among the 92 Singaporeans evacuated from Wuhan on Jan 30.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Friday that the Government is concerned that many of confirmed cases had remained in the community, and some went to work while ill.
"This is not helpful in our efforts to reduce the risk of community transmission," he said.
He announced that 900 GP clinics will be re-activated as Public Health Preparedness Clinics to provide subsidised treatment for patients with respiratory symptoms.
This will help the authorities to detect the virus earlier and reduce the risk of further transmission, MOH said in a statement.
One of the newly confirmed cases on Friday is an employee at PUB, the national water agency said.
PUB said in a media statement that the employee is an administrative staff member who works in the agency’s Environment Building, and is not involved in plant or field operations.
All employees on the affected level of the building - 70 staff members in total - were asked to leave the office and telecommute for the rest of the day, so that the space could be disinfected.
The first two cases linked to the Grace Assembly of God church, which has a branch in Tanglin and another in Bukit Batok, were announced on Wednesday, while five others were announced on Thursday. There are 13 in the cluster after six more were announced on Friday.
When asked about whether there was a "super spreader" related to the Grace Assembly of God cluster, Mr Mak said there was not enough information as of now to identify a particular individual as being a super spreader, or to suspect that this is indeed the case.
"Within the cluster, individuals possibly may have spread within the family. It’s not necessarily the case that it’s one individual being a super spreader and spreading it," he said.
MOH also gave more details on five of the cases (54, 55, 56, 57, 58) it announced on Thursday.
Among them was a 30-year-old man who worked on Pulau Bukom, where Shell has a refinery. On Friday night, Shell confirmed that a contractor working on its Pulau Bukom manufacturing site had contracted COVID-19.
DORSCON RED RUMOUR
Singapore last week raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange, prompting additional precautionary measures.
Mr Gan urged media at the press conference to help "him stop the rumour" that Singapore was moving into DORSCON Red, the most severe phase in the colour-coded system.
"It is difficult enough, challenging enough for us to try to stop the spread of the virus. We don’t really want to have to spend effort in stopping the spread of the rumours. I want to say categorically that we have no plans to go to DORSCON Red," he said.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is co-chair of a multi-ministry task force set up to deal with COVID-19 said that that the strategy in Singapore might change if there is widespread community transmission both here and overseas.
"We are unlikely to continue contact tracing every single individual ... we will move away from that strategy. Instead we will look at the patients who come forward," he said.
He quoted a World Health Organisation (WHO) study on 17,000 people that showed that a majority - 82 per cent - had mild symptoms.
Those who show mild symptoms here can visit a GP, make sure they take necessary precautions, rest and avoid going and they will "recover in due course", Mr Wong said.
Singapore is bracing itself for the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its economy, with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat saying that the upcoming Budget statement on Feb 18 will contain detailed measures for the hardest-hit sectors - tourism and transport.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday that the ongoing COVID-19 situation will have a significant impact on the country’s economy for the next couple of quarters, calling the current outbreak “very intense”.
READ: Commentary: What to do with all these health rumours and forwarded messages in the time of COVID-19?
It has now spread beyond China to more than 25 countries, with the World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency last month.
Japan on Thursday reported its first death of a person infected with the virus - a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture, west of Tokyo. Her death brings to three the number of fatalities from the virus outside mainland China.
ABOUT THE CONFIRMED CASES
Case 59 is a 61-year-old Singaporean man with no recent travel history to China. He is currently warded in an isolation room at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
He reported onset of symptoms on Feb 7 and sought treatment at Farrer Park Hospital’s emergency care clinic three days later. He had a fever and was the only patient at the time, Farrer Park Hospital told CNA in response to a query.
Staff at the emergency clinic followed infection control protocol strictly and wore full personal protective equipment, a Farrer Park Hospital spokesperson said. The service officer who was in contact with him also wore a surgical mask that night.
"As in after every suspect case, we carried out terminal cleaning and disinfected all rooms, corridors and areas that this patient had been in contact with while he was at [the] emergency clinic," the spokesperson said.
He went to the emergency department at Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Feb 12 and was conveyed by ambulance to NCID the next day.
Prior to hospital admission, he had mostly stayed home at Wilkinson Road except to seek medical treatment. He works as an anaesthesiologist at a private hospital in Singapore, and was not at work since the onset of symptoms. He has no known interactions with past cases.
CASE 60, 61, 62, 63, 66, 67 LINKED TO CHURCH
Case 60 is a 51 year-old Singaporean woman who is an employee of the Grace Assembly of God church with no recent travel history to China. She is currently warded in an isolation room at NCID.
She reported onset of symptoms on Feb 8 and sought treatment at a GP clinic on the same day. She went to NCID four days later and was immediately isolated.
Prior to hospital admission, she had mostly stayed at her home at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and went to work at the Tanglin branch of the church.
Case 61 is a 57-year-old Singaporean man with no recent travel history to China. He is currently warded in an isolation room at the National University Hospital (NUH). He is linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God.
He reported onset of symptoms on Feb 6 and sought treatment at a GP clinic on the same day and again two days later. He went to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital the next day, and to Pioneer Polyclinic on Feb 11 and 12.
Prior to hospital admission, he reported that he had mostly stayed at home at Jurong West Street 64, except to go to work for a day at Legacy Office Supplies Pte Ltd in Senang Crescent in Chai Chee.
Case 62 is a 44-year-old Singaporean woman with no recent travel history to China. She is currently warded in an isolation room at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). She is linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God.
She reported onset of symptoms on Feb 9 and sought treatment at a GP clinic the next day. She went to SGH on Feb 12, and was immediately isolated. Subsequent test results confirmed COVID-19 infection on Feb 13 afternoon.
Prior to hospital admission, she reported that he had mostly stayed at home at Tanjong Pagar Road, except to seek medical treatment.
Case 63 is a 54-year-old Singaporean woman with no recent travel history to China. She is linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God, as is Case 66, a 28-year-old Singaporean man with no recent travel history to China.
Case 67 is a 56-year-old Singaporean woman with no recent travel history to China. She is linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God, and is a family member of Case 61, a 57-year-old Singaporean man.
Case 64 is a 50-year-old Singaporean man with no recent travel history to China. MOH did not provide any further details on Friday.
Case 65 is a 61-year-old Singaporean woman with no recent travel history to China. She is a family member of Case 50, a DBS employee, as is Case 55.
UPDATE ON SUSPECT CASES, CONTACT TRACING
As of noon on Friday, 764 suspect cases have tested negative for COVID-19. Test results for another 91 cases are pending.
MOH has identified 1,368 close contacts. Of the 1,247 who are still in Singapore, 1,234 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining 13 close contacts.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that a Shell employee had contracted COVID-19. This is inaccurate. The person in question was a contractor working on its Pulau Bukom manufacturing site.