SINGAPORE: Of the COVID-19 cases linked to a cluster at 115 Bukit Merah View Market and Hawker Centre, more than half were not vaccinated, while about a third were fully vaccinated, said Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, the Health Ministry’s director of medical services, on Thursday (Jun 24).
Specifically, out of the 82 cases, 51.1 per cent of the cases were not vaccinated, while 36.7 per cent of them were fully vaccinated, noted Assoc Prof Mak at a press conference by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force.
Among those who were vaccinated, the majority were either mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, he said.
He added that 46 of these cases were not “household-related”, and 16 of these cases had been detected from surveillance or community testing operations. A total of 27 cases had been isolated or quarantined before detection.
In addition, nearly 47 per cent of the linked cases were above the age of 60, Assoc Prof Mak said.
This comes as the Bukit Merah market and food centre cluster “continues to grow”, while additional smaller clusters have emerged from it too, said co-chair of the task force, Mr Gan Kim Yong.
“Any of these new clusters can become another big cluster if we are not careful.”
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Assoc Prof Mak added that the clusters in the Bukit Merah and Tiong Bahru area are of concern to authorities, and they continue to monitor them.
In the meantime, results of phylogenetic studies are pending, before any links to the Bukit Merah View market cluster can be confirmed, he said.
Assoc Prof Mak added that this area of concern was picked up as a result of the clusters identified, and supported by other tests conducted.
“For example, wastewater testing that allows us to understand whether there might be cryptic chains of transmission occurring within the area,” said Assoc Prof Mak.
These tests have also allowed authorities to “sharpen” strategies for heightening community surveillance through aggressive testing in the area, such as in the Enabling Village and the Redhill area, he noted.
In addition, authorities mapped areas that people might have moved around to, and included these within the boundaries for testing.
This was to avoid missing out "various nexus of activity that may be contributing towards cryptic spread", said Assoc Prof Mak.
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AGGRESSIVE COMMUNITY SURVEILLANCE
Assoc Prof Mak added that over the last three weeks, “aggressive community surveillance” has been conducted, with at least 219,000 tests having been carried out in various areas, such as dormitories, workplaces and community areas.
He noted that overall, the number of community cases had increased in the past week, compared to the week before.
But the proportion of unlinked cases had fallen from 25 per cent to 21 per cent in the same period, he said.
“Household transmission appears to be decreasing. Those that were detected on entry into quarantine has also further decreased from 18.8 per cent on the 16th of June, to 5.5 per cent as of the 22nd.
“And this suggests that we are getting more cases more quickly as a result of all of the aggressive testing that we've been doing.”
Assoc Prof Mak also noted that out of the 141 cases admitted to hospitals, there are five cases in the intensive care unit (ICU) – all of whom were unvaccinated.
“It reinforces our concern that those who are not vaccinated, if infected, may get a more aggressive course of disease, a more severe course of disease, may require oxygen supplementation, or even ICU care.”
He said that this was also borne out by the Bukit Merah View market cluster, despite seniors comprising a high proportion of cases.
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“This reinforces the call that we've been giving: for all who have yet to be vaccinated, to step forward and make use of the opportunities that are coming up to register and be vaccinated.
"Our seniors, in particular, will be hard hit if the clusters increase, or if more clusters like we see in Bukit Merah then break through in our community."