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First reported COVID-19 case of KTV cluster entered Singapore via familial ties lane: ICA, MOM

First reported COVID-19 case of KTV cluster entered Singapore via familial ties lane: ICA, MOM

Club Dolce at Balestier Point. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: The Vietnamese short-term visit pass holder who was the first reported COVID-19 case in the KTV cluster entered Singapore in February via the familial ties lane, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (Jul 16).

“According to checks by the ICA, this Vietnamese national entered Singapore in February 2021 via the familial ties lane, sponsored by a Singapore citizen who is her boyfriend,” said ICA and MOM in a joint statement.

The familial ties lane facilitates the entry of foreigners with "intimate ties" in Singapore, said the statement.

According to ICA's SafeTravel website, eligible travellers under the familial ties lane include immediate family members, relatives, fiance or fiancee of a Singaporean or permanent resident. 

They can be holders of a valid work pass, a student's pass or hold an in-principle approval (IPA) of a student's pass. Former student's pass holders returning to Singapore to fulfil their scholarship obligations are also eligible.

Other eligible travellers under the familial ties lane include a permanent resident IPA holder, an ICA-issued long-term visit pass IPA holder or an adopted child of a Singaporean or PR holding an IPA dependent pass.

READ: Timeline: From KTV lounges switching to F&B outlets, to a spike in local COVID-19 cases

The Vietnamese woman was among the short-term visit pass holders linked to the cluster who had their passes extended, the authorities said on Friday.

The "index case" - the first reported case - in the KTV cluster was detected when the woman visited a general practitioner clinic on Jul 11 with acute respiratory infection symptoms, said the Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak on Wednesday. 

She was taken to a hospital after testing positive. Authorities started epidemiological investigations and contact tracing, and discovered that the woman had frequented many KTV outlets.

Some of the COVID-19 cases in the cluster lived with her in the same household, said Associate Professor Mak. 

EIGHT SHORT-TERM PASS HOLDERS EXTENDED STAY

The authorities provided details of some of the 54 COVID-19 cases linked to the cluster as of Wednesday. Thirty of the 54 cases are non-Singaporeans.

Of the 30 non-Singaporean cases, two were permanent residents, 14 were work pass holders, one was a student’s pass holder and five were long-term visit pass holders. The remaining eight, which included the Vietnamese woman, were short-term visit pass holders.

Of the 30 non-Singaporeans, 25 entered Singapore before 2021, the joint statement said.

READ: KTV lounge involved in COVID-19 cluster closed for disinfection, does not know who infected hostesses are

Two of the short-term visit pass holders entered Singapore before the imposition of border entry measures on Mar 21, 2020.

Another two entered in late 2020 via the air travel pass that enables foreigners, including business and official travellers, from specific countries and regions to seek entry into Singapore. This travel lane was available to visitors travelling from Vietnam to Singapore between Oct 8, 2020, and Feb 13, 2021.

The remaining four short-term visit pass holders, including the Vietnamese woman who was the index case, entered Singapore this year via the familial ties lane.

All eight short-term visit pass holders remained in Singapore through extension of their visit passes, said ICA and MOM.

“During this pandemic, ICA has been assessing applications to extend short-term visit passes on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration extenuating reasons, such as international travel restrictions and flight availability, and whether the applicants have family ties in Singapore,” said the authorities.

“For example, Vietnamese nationals can only return to Vietnam through relief flights arranged by the Vietnamese authorities.”

Under the law, short-term visitors are not allowed to engage in any form of employment, whether paid or unpaid, in Singapore.

Those who are found to have broken this law are liable to be prosecuted or have their visit pass cancelled, and deported and be barred from re-entering Singapore, said MOM and ICA.

The statement added that all MOM-issued pass holders entered Singapore before border entry measures were imposed on Mar 21 last year. This was when entry approvals were introduced to manage COVID-19 importation and transmission risks.

POLICE INVESTIGATIONS

Police investigations into possible illegal activities within this KTV cluster are ongoing. The cluster grew to 88 cases on Thursday.

READ: 3 KTV operators under investigation for allegedly providing hostessing services; 20 women arrested 

READ: F&B licences of 3 former nightlife venues revoked over COVID-19 breaches

“If the investigations show any criminal offence on the part of these foreigners, ICA and MOM will take firm action against them, including cancelling their work pass, student’s pass or visit pass, and deport them,” the statement said.

Employers who illegally employ these pass holders or abet them in illegal employment may face a fine of S$5,000 to S$30,000, up to 12 years’ jail, or both. Their work pass privileges may also be suspended.

Police are also investigating the pivoted outlets that COVID-19 cases had visited. They will determine if any criminal offences have been committed and if there were any breaches of safe management measures.

“The police and relevant authorities will also be stepping up enforcement against breaches of safe management measures, as well as vice and other illegal activities, in the other pivoted KTV outlets,” it added.

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Source: CNA/ec(mi)

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