Not 'enough information' to suspect a COVID-19 super spreader in Grace Assembly of God cluster: MOH

Not 'enough information' to suspect a COVID-19 super spreader in Grace Assembly of God cluster: MOH

grace assembly of god tanglin
Grace Assembly of God (Tanglin). (Photo: 

SINGAPORE: There is not enough information to suspect the presence of a super spreader in the Grace Assembly of God church novel coronavirus cluster, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday (Feb 14).

This comes after Singapore announced nine more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including six linked to that cluster.

The first two cases linked to the church, which has a branch in Tanglin and another in Bukit Batok, were announced on Wednesday, while five others were announced on Thursday. At least three of them work at the church, including a senior pastor. 

This means that a total of 13 confirmed cases have been linked to the cluster.

READ: 9 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore, including 6 linked to Grace Assembly of God cluster

But MOH director of medical services Kenneth Mak said there was not "enough information" to determine if there was indeed a super spreader in the cluster, adding that epidemiological studies and contact tracing were ongoing.

"At this time, we do not have enough information to identify a particular individual as being a super spreader or to suspect that this is indeed the case," he said. 

READ: Senior pastor of Grace Assembly of God church tests positive for COVID-19

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the concept of a super spreader might need to be adjusted if it became clearer that COVID-19 was highly infectious.

"Because of the higher rate of transmission of this disease, which is quite different from SARS, the idea of a super spreader may have to be adjusted," he said.

"If one person has the flu, you can expect quite a lot of people around him to also be exposed to flu symptoms. So similar to H1N1, it is quite easy to transmit, and therefore we have to recognise that you will tend to have larger clusters - and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will encounter a super spreader."

As the transmission for SARS is "quite limited" in comparison, Mr Gan said fewer people would be infected.

"Therefore, if you see a large cluster (for SARS), then the immediate reaction is that it could be a super spreader that infects many people" he added.

"So (this is) not quite relevant in the case of, for example, H1N1. And (COVID-19) is turning out to be quite like H1N1."

According to a National Library Board Infopedia report, Singapore confirmed its first case of H1N1 in late May 2009.

By early 2010, it was estimated that a total of 415,000 people in Singapore had been infected with the H1N1 virus, with more than 420,000 residents receiving the H1N1 vaccine injection.

While eighteen people died from the virus, the report said most H1N1-infected persons in Singapore experienced mild illness.

There were more than 1,600 hospital admissions from complications related to the virus, it added, including about 100 admissions to intensive care.

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Source: CNA/hz(rw)