SINGAPORE: Singapore’s return to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures is due to the growing cluster at Jurong Fishery Port and "we are at risk of an uncontrollable rise in cases", Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said.
"Given the gravity of the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, we felt it is not the time to risk it all now," Mr Ong said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Jul 21).
Mr Ong said he has received “several valid queries” asking why there was a need to tighten measures “when we plan to live with COVID-19”.
“Like everyone, I am upset with the irresponsible behaviour of people in the KTV cluster, but it is not the reason for the reversion to Phase 2 (HA),” he said.
“In fact, the MTF (multi ministry task force) thought we could control the KTV cluster, and decided to keep F&B establishments open with the 2/5 pax rule, i.e. allowing five pax if all are fully vaccinated,” he said, noting that the number of cases from the cluster has gone down over the past few days.
“Unfortunately, while our fishmongers and stall assistants were going about earning an honest living, they got infected at the Port,” Mr Ong said, referring to the Jurong Fishery Port which has been closed from Jul 17 to Jul 31 for deep cleaning.
“As they went to work at various markets around the island, many more cases in the community were seeded.”
The Jurong Fishery Port cluster, which has grown to 454 cases as of Wednesday, is now the largest active cluster in the country.
READ: COVID-19 cases detected at 35 markets and food centres so far, linked to fishery port cluster: MOH
READ: Return to tighter measures needed as COVID-19 infections likely to 'rise sharply' at current transmission rates: MOH
Mr Ong added that markets are frequented by seniors, many of whom remain unvaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
“This is most worrying, and we are at risk of an uncontrollable rise in cases, which could potentially result in many severe illnesses or even deaths,” he said.
“So we need to preemptively tighten up social activities.”
Responding to questions on why there is a need to suspend dining-in at F&B outlets, despite no cases detected in such settings, Mr Ong said: “Unfortunately it does not work like that.”
“If 5 friends meet for dinner, each has 5 people at home, who in turn meet their friends in groups of 5, we have a network of 5x5x5=125 connections for the virus to work itself through," he explained.
"This will turbo charge the Jurong Fishery Port cluster further.”
READ: ‘A lot of confusion’ for stallholders and fishmongers as stalls remain closed with COVID-19 testing under way
READ: Jurong Fishery Port cluster: No evidence of COVID-19 transmission through contaminated fish, says MOH
Mr Ong also noted that 50 per cent of Singapore’s population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is a good rate but needs to be higher,” he said. “This percentage will be going up by 1 percentage point every day. In 2 weeks, we will be at 64 per cent or more. That will put us in a much stronger and resilient position when we review the Phase 2 (HA) rules.
“It’s a frustrating situation, but I hope with my explanation, we understand why the measures are necessary.”
COVID-19 cases have been detected in at least 35 markets and food centres linked to the growing Jurong Fishery Port cluster, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday.
It was announced on Saturday that all fishmongers, stall owners and stall assistants working at markets managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or its appointed operators would be tested for COVID-19.
Stalls selling fish and fresh seafood have also been ordered to stop operations as a precautionary measure.