SINGAPORE: Twenty-five cases of a COVID-19 virus variant originally reported by the United Kingdom have been detected in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Jan 29).
In an email response to CNA's queries, MOH said that of the 25 cases of the B117 variant as of Jan 26, five are community cases and 20 are imported cases from Europe.
There are another two imported cases from Europe that have tested "preliminarily positive and are pending confirmatory results", said the ministry.
The B117 SARS-CoV-2 variant is one of a few mutated strains of the coronavirus to have caused concern around the world as it is said to be potentially more contagious. It has spread to 70 countries and territories now.
Singapore reported its first B117 COVID-19 case on Dec 23, a 17-year-old Singaporean student who had returned from the UK on Dec 6 and served her stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.
READ: Singapore confirms 1 COVID-19 case carrying UK virus strain, 11 others 'preliminarily positive'
Another strain, the South Africa 501Y.V2 variant, which could be more transmissible, may even affect the effectiveness of current COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
MOH said there have been no cases of 501Y.V2 found in Singapore so far.
MOH INVESTIGATING IF COMMUNITY CASES ARE LINKED
The five B117 community cases are Cases 59028, 59059, 59084, 59340 and 59351. Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to determine if the five cases are linked, the ministry added.
All close contacts of the cases, including those who have tested preliminarily positive for the variant, have been isolated and placed on quarantine.
MOH said it may also perform additional active case finding "to detect and ringfence cases as early as possible when there are cases which test preliminarily positive for the B117 variant".
"No new cases have emerged from the community cases so far, and we hope that our efforts have ringfenced the cases and prevented further transmission," said MOH.
"It is important for everyone to continue to play their part and remain vigilant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
The National Public Health Laboratory performs viral genomic sequencing for all confirmed cases, MOH added.
THE FIVE COMMUNITY CASES
The five community cases identified were reported earlier this month by MOH. Three of them work at a restaurant at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, delivering pre-packed meals to air crew members and hotel guests.
Case 59028 is a 24-year-old Korean work permit holder who works at Azur restaurant at the hotel.
His colleague, Case 59059, is a 43-year-old Malaysian woman. Preliminary investigations had said that she was probably not infected with the B117 strain, but she was added to the list of B117 community cases on Friday.
Case 59084 is a 20-year-old Singaporean who did a similar job and was identified as a close contact of the Korean work permit holder.
Cases 59340 and 59351 are a married couple.
Case 59340 is a 39-year-old Singaporean who works at the Singapore Scouts Association, handling mainly administrative work in the office. He is also a part-time bus driver with Westpoint Transit who plies specific routes for Cameron (Singapore) and GlaxoSmithKline Tuas.
His wife, a 39-year-old Singaporean, is an administrative officer at OCBC Tampines Centre One but does not interact with customers, MOH had said.
Epidemiological investigations showed that the couple visited Jewel Changi Airport between 2.35pm and 9.50pm on Dec 31. Meanwhile, Case 59028, the Korean work permit holder, was at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on the same day, between 7.48pm and 8.49pm.