Many local COVID-19 cases due to 'socially irresponsible' behaviour of a few: Health Minister

Many local COVID-19 cases due to 'socially irresponsible' behaviour of a few: Health Minister

Gan Kim Yong speaking on Mar 10
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong speaking at the press conference on Mar 10, 2020. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan) 

SINGAPORE: Many locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Singapore "were the result of the socially irresponsible actions of a few individuals" who continued to attend events and activities despite being unwell, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (Mar 10).

To curb the spread of the coronavirus in Singapore, members of the public should avoid social contact and see a doctor early if unwell, Mr Gan said at a press conference.

Explore our interactive: All the COVID-19 cases in Singapore and the clusters and links between them

READ: COVID-19: People's Association to suspend courses and activities for seniors

About 35 out of the 160 confirmed cases in Singapore so far did not minimise social contact although they had already developed fever or respiratory symptoms, or had not consulted a doctor early when unwell.

More than a fifth (22 per cent) continued to work or carried on with their daily routine despite being sick, said Mr Gan.

SCIENCE PARK CLUSTER

Of the 14 confirmed cases at Wizlearn Technologies, nine were members of staff. Of these, three employees had continued with their daily activities despite being unwell.

One of the staff members spread the coronavirus to a family contact, who also carried on with daily activities while symptomatic.

READ: Singapore to shift approach, 'double down' on COVID-19 measures within country: Lawrence Wong

This resulted in four additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 who had not worked at Wizlearn Technologies, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

SAFRA JURONG CLUSTER

Of the cases linked to the private dinner function at SAFRA Jurong, one case who subsequently tested positive attended the function on Feb 15 despite feeling unwell.

This could have resulted in 18 additional confirmed cases among those who attended the dinner.

READ: Some activities at 7 CCs and 8 RCs suspended over links to SAFRA Jurong COVID-19 cluster: MOH

READ: SAFRA Jurong COVID-19 cluster: Confirmed cases cleared mandatory temperature checks

Of these 18 cases, 10 of them continued with their daily activities while feeling unwell, resulting in an additional 17 COVID-19 cases who had not attended the dinner, said MOH.

This COVID-19 cluster is now the largest in Singapore, with 36 patients - many of them seniors - as of Monday.

Authorities announced at the conference that activities for seniors organised by government agencies will be suspended for 14 days from Wednesday.

"Let me just say that the multi-ministry task force is now also assessing the situation locally as well as globally and is studying a broader range of social distancing measures that we might take to help further slow down the spread of the virus," said Mr Gan.

REFRAIN FROM DOCTOR-HOPPING: MOH

MOH also urged members of the public to refrain from doctor-hopping, so the same doctor can follow up with each case, and assess if a case needs to be tested for COVID-19.

Of the 160 cases in Singapore, 24 per cent, or 38 cases, had visited more than one general practitioner (GP) clinic. Of these, eight cases had visited three or more GP clinics.

MOH said that its ability to carry out effective contact tracing requires the cooperation of individuals to provide comprehensive and truthful accounts about their activities when interviewed by its public officers - failing to do so would affect its ability to get in contact with others who may have been infected, delaying MOH's ring-fencing of clusters.

"This socially irresponsible behaviour poses a risk to all of us. The measures we have implemented will only work if individuals cooperate and behave in a socially responsible manner," said Mr Gan.

Those who are unwell, even with mild flu-like symptoms, should see a doctor and stay at home to prevent spreading illness to others, said MOH.

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Source: CNA/ic(hm)

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