Unvaccinated seniors urged to stay home 'as much as possible' to reduce COVID-19 risk: MOH

Unvaccinated seniors urged to stay home 'as much as possible' to reduce COVID-19 risk: MOH

Elderly man in face mask at Chinatown
An elderly man wearing a face mask sitting on a public bench marked for safe distancing. (File photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday (Jul 18) urged individuals, especially the elderly, who have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to "stay home as much as possible" in the next few weeks and avoid going out for non-essential reasons.

"Given the heightened concerns over the potential for community spread, we strongly advise unvaccinated individuals, especially the elderly, to stay home as much as possible over the next few weeks," said MOH. 

"We urge members of the public to reach out to your elderly relatives or neighbours who remain unvaccinated to see what assistance they may require, e.g. to buy daily necessities."

The ministry said it is "particularly concerned" that the elderly, some of whom remain unvaccinated, may be infected at wet markets, where COVID-19 clusters have been detected in recent days.

This comes after four unvaccinated seniors were found to be among the new COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday.

"The porous nature of wet markets makes contact tracing and isolation less straightforward. We are particularly concerned that these wet markets serve a range of customers, including the vulnerable elderly, some of whom remain unvaccinated. They might be infected, and could suffer severe symptoms," said MOH. 

It also expressed concern that there may be "cryptic transmission chains" which may continue to spread COVID-19 within the community.

MOH said it found clusters at two markets – Hong Lim Market & Food Centre and Chong Boon Market & Food Centre – as well as cases at Amoy Street Food Centre and Chong Pang Market & Food Centre. 

Individuals at Whampoa Wet Market, Telok Blangah Crescent Block 11, Taman Jurong Market, Redhill Market, Geylang Serai Malay Market, Geylang Bahru Market, 527 Ang Mo Kio Market, 726 West Coast Wet Market and Bukit Timah Wet Market have tested positive via antigen rapid tests (ART), MOH said. 

"All of them have since been confirmed to be positive for COVID-19 infection with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing."

MOH said that those who have unvaccinated elderly at home should avoid crowded places or extensive social interactions, even if they are already vaccinated.

"Remember vaccinated persons can still get infected, although typically with very mild symptoms," Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, said in a Facebook post. 

"So if you are not careful, you may inadvertently bring the virus home to the seniors living with you."

Seniors who are yet to get vaccinated were advised to do so as soon as possible.

Mr Wong urged the public to continue doing their part when going out, including practising safe distancing and good personal hygiene.

"By minimising your movement and social interactions, you will reduce the risk of catching the virus and developing severe illness," .

"Please keep taking all of these precautions until you are fully vaccinated."

MANDATORY CHECK-INS, GROUP SIZES LIMITED

Starting from Monday, group sizes at hawker centres, food courts and coffeeshops will be limited to two people. 

MOH added that it will also tighten measures to “better manage access to the affected wet markets” from the same day onwards.

The National Environment Agency and town councils will be “progressively implementing access control with interim fencing and mandatory SafeEntry check-in at markets where COVID-19 cases have been detected amongst stallholders or stall assistants".

This includes the seven markets where recent cases have been detected: Block 69 Geylang Bahru market, Block 79 Redhill Lane market, Block 11 Telok Blangah market, Block 92 Whampoa Drive market, Bukit Timah Market, Taman Jurong Market and Block 726 Clementi West Street 2 market.

“The added access control will better enable contact tracing to ringfence cases,” the ministry said.

Singapore on Sunday reported 92 new COVID-19 cases, including 88 that were locally transmitted, the nation's highest daily total since Aug 28 last year.

READ: 88 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Singapore, 60 linked to KTV and Jurong Fishery Port clusters

Sixty of these infections were linked to clusters in KTV lounges and the Jurong Fishery Port. Also among the new cases are four seniors above the age of 70 who are unvaccinated and at risk of serious illness.

MOH and the National Environment Agency (NEA) also announced that stallholders selling fresh fish and seafood at markets managed by the agency or its appointed operators have been ordered to stop operations.

Stallholders will be required to undergo COVID-19 PCR tests and will only be allowed to resume business once they are confirmed negative for infection.

READ: Fresh fish and seafood stalls ordered to stop operating; stallholders to undergo COVID-19 test

READ: Fishmongers from all markets to be tested for COVID-19, says MOH

Tests will also be conducted for all stallholders and stall assistants of market stalls and cooked food stalls at hawker centres and markets managed by NEA or its appointed operators.

The ministry said on Saturday it will test fishmongers from all markets after COVID-19 clusters were detected at Hong Lim Market & Food Centre and Jurong Fishery Port.

Testing is also ongoing for visitors who have been to the port between Jul 4 and Jul 31.

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Source: CNA/ga

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