SINGAPORE: Singapore on Wednesday (Mar 18) reported 47 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total in the country to 313.
This is the highest number of confirmed daily cases reported so far.
Of the new cases, 33 are imported, and includes 30 returning Singapore residents who were infected overseas and brought the infection to Singapore, authorities said.
These imported cases comprise citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.
READ: Singaporeans advised to defer all travel abroad amid heightened risk of imported COVID-19 cases
Nineteen of them have a travel history to Europe while six had been in North America. Six other cases have a travel history to ASEAN nations while another case travelled beyond ASEAN to other parts of Asia.
The remaining imported case had travelled to both Europe and North America.
Nine other cases are linked to previous cases while five are currently unlinked, MOH added.
Three more patients have been discharged, bringing the total number of recovered cases to 117. Of the 196 who are still in hospital, most are stable or improving. Fifteen are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
As part of enhanced efforts to tackle the spread of COVID-19, MOH said it is advising Singaporeans to defer all travel abroad, and that Singaporeans coming back from overseas will have to serve a 14-day self-isolation.
"Most of these cases are imported ones and the majority are Singaporeans and residents coming back from overseas ... we cannot afford to take further risk if the number of these imported cases continue to rise," said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
READ: ‘Sufficient flexibility and buffer’ in Singapore’s capacity to care for COVID-19 patients: Gan Kim Yong
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said he expects the number of cases to increase but Singapore's healthcare capacity is "designed to handle them".
"So 47 is the highest single day so far, but we do see the number going up ... many residents have returned to Singapore, even before we introduced the Stay-Home Notice and the current travel advisory," he said.
"We do expect some of them to be infected. They are now in the incubation period and in the next two or three weeks, we will see some of these infected cases emerging."
He also said that MOH would be announcing additional social distancing measures, particularly for the more vulnerable such as the elderly.
"This will help to further reduce the risk of transmission in our local community," he added.
SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA HEALTH OFFICIALS HOLD VIRTUAL MEETING
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong held a virtual meeting on Tuesday with his Malaysian counterpart Dr Adham Baba, as well as senior officials from the Malaysian Health Ministry and the Johor state health department.
"Dr Adham Baba informed us that Malaysia had to make a serious announcement on Mar 16 night to implement a Movement Control Order to curb the spread of COVID-19," said MOH in a Facebook post. "With rapid increases in cases seen in many countries, the COVID-19 outbreak is now a global pandemic and it is concerning to us."
Malaysia has barred citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country for two weeks, a move announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday night amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
The announcement briefly caused long queues in supermarkets in Singapore, before Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the movement of goods and cargo, including food, will continue between the two countries.
Singapore firms and Johor residents who used to commute daily to work in Singapore scrambled to find alternative accommodation. In the final hours of Tuesday night, travellers piled up along the Causeway as people tried to make it across the strait before the midnight deadline.
In pictures: Crowds, traffic jams as last JB commuters enter Singapore ahead of Malaysia's COVID-19 travel restrictions
READ: Companies affected by Malaysia travel restrictions to get financial support, Minister Josephine Teo says
Health officials from both countries agreed that they should continue to work closely together, "as the situation is evolving quickly".
"Senior Officials under the Singapore-Malaysia Joint Working Group (JWG) are in close communication and are sharing information with each other on COVID-19 to facilitate timely response and contact-tracing of confirmed cases," said Singapore's MOH.
"We will work together to find solutions to minimise the impact on the lives of our people and protect them from COVID-19," the Facebook post added.
Several cases in Singapore has been linked to a religious gathering in Malaysia, resulting in the the closure of all mosques in Singapore until Mar 26.
MOH found that 101 people in Singapore had attended the gathering, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli had told the media.
The event held at the end of last month at a sprawling mosque complex on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur has emerged as a source of hundreds of new coronavirus infections spanning Southeast Asia.
A 34-year-old Malaysian man who attended the event died on Tuesday, said Dr Adham - the first death linked to the event, which was attended by 16,000 people, including 1,500 foreigners from Indonesia and Brunei, among others.