42 new COVID-19 cases linked to KTV cluster; situation ‘troubling and disappointing’, says Ong Ye Kung
Cases linked to the KTV cluster include a passenger on a Dream Cruises ship who was identified as a close contact of another case.
SINGAPORE: A total of 42 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore have been linked to the KTV lounge cluster, a situation that Health Minister Ong Ye Kung described as “very troubling and disappointing”.
They include a passenger on a Dream Cruises ship who tested positive on board after being identified as a close contact of a case on land.
This takes the number of cases linked to the KTV cluster to 54.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) had earlier indicated that 41 new cases were traced to KTV lounges. This number was subsequently revised in the health ministry's evening update.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (Jul 14), Mr Ong said that as contact tracing continues, authorities expect more infections linked to the cluster in the coming days.
“We knew about cases like that happening in Korea, in Hong Kong, nightlife - people coming very close together, some with hostesses, and leading to big clusters. So we have never allowed such activities for the past more than one year," he said.
“And so any outlets providing hostess services, dice games and all this very close contact, were never allowed, knowing and learning from the experiences of places like Hong Kong and Korea. So for this to now happen has been troubling (and) disappointing.”
Cases tied to KTV lounges were first announced on Jul 12, when the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that the infections involved Vietnamese social hostesses who frequented outlets currently operating as food and beverage outlets.
The police announced later on Wednesday that three KTV operators are under investigation for providing "hostessing services" in breach of COVID-19 measures. Twenty women of various nationalities were also arrested for their suspected involvement in vice activities at the three outlets, which were not named.
READ: 3 KTV operators under investigation for allegedly providing hostessing services; 20 women arrested
The "index case" or first reported case in the KTV cluster was detected when a short-term visit pass holder from Vietnam visited a general practitioner clinic on Jul 11 with acute respiratory infection symptoms.
She was taken to a hospital after testing positive. Authorities then started contact tracing and epidemiological investigations, and discovered that the woman had frequented many KTV outlets, said MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
Some of the COVID-19 cases lived with her in the same household, said Associate Professor Mak.
READ: 56 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Singapore; KTV lounge cluster grows to 53 infections
Of the 41 new cases linked to the cluster, nine were already placed in quarantine and the rest were detected through surveillance, he added.
The Dream Cruises passenger was immediately isolated on board after he was identified as a close contact of a confirmed case on land, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) earlier on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old passenger was then swabbed on board and again at a hospital. Both tests were positive. The mandatory pre-departure Antigen Rapid Test on Jul 11 was negative for the coronavirus.
The ship returned to Singapore at around 6.30am on Wednesday, a few hours before it was scheduled to return at 9am on the same day.
VISITORS TO KTV LOUNGES URGED TO GET TESTED
People who have visited KTV lounges in the past 14 days, or from Jun 29, should come forward to get tested for COVID-19, said the Health Minister.
“If you’re still somehow uncomfortable for whatever reason, and really don’t feel like doing it, at the very least I can only urge you if you’ve visited KTV lounges and interacted with hostesses since Jun 29, at the very least stay at home, tell your family about it,” he added.
“Make sure you have your own room, isolate yourself, get your family to buy you some ART kits, test yourself, don’t interact with anybody, and monitor your health for the next 14 days.”
MOH previously named five venues - Supreme KTV (Far East Shopping Centre), Empress KTV (Tanglin Shopping Centre), Club Dolce (Balestier Point), WU Bistro (Golden Mile Complex) and Club De Zara Pte (Textile Centre) - saying free COVID-19 testing will be offered to people who had visited those places.
On Wednesday evening it added Terminal 10 (Clarke Quay) and three venues at 114 Middle Road - One Exclusive, Level 9 and Club M - to the list.
It also said testing will be extended to "similar KTV lounges or clubs operating as F&B outlets".
READ: Existing COVID-19 dine-in rules to remain despite 'potentially huge’ KTV lounge cluster: Ong Ye Kung
Responding to a question about how some people who visited KTV lounges might not want to come forward to be tested as their visits may be illegal, Mr Ong said that the Ministry of Home Affairs has a record of the hostesses involved because they applied for passes to enter Singapore.
“As for customers, if we can make it mandatory, like how we have drawn rings around certain estates and certain blocks and require testing of the whole block, if we can do that, we definitely will - except we don't know who the patrons are,” said the Health Minister.
“So, therefore, I think the best way is to urge the customers, if you have been to KTV lounges, interacted with any hostesses, since Jun 29, come forward and be tested. The process is confidential.”
More than 100 customers who visited the lounges and close to 100 staff members have already been tested after the cluster emerged, said Mr Ong.
“And all those numbers are based on the knowledge of who works there, as well as all the information we can get through TraceTogether and SafeEntry.
“But we strongly suspect, and the police also strongly suspect, that the data we have using TT and SafeEntry are not comprehensive, considering that these KTV lounges are operating allegedly illegally to start with,” said Mr Ong, noting that contact tracing interviews are ongoing.
“We need to go beyond that. I can’t emphasise enough that I think there’s a limit here to how much we can use SafeEntry and TT.”