SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been stepping up its surveillance, active case-finding and containment efforts, in order to detect and “ringfence” cases of COVID-19 infection as early as possible, it said on Friday (Jul 24).
These include placing close contacts of confirmed cases under quarantine and testing them at the start and end of their quarantine period, MOH said.
“Where infection clusters arise, we undertake swift action to quarantine and test close contacts, mount swab operations, and suspend operations at the relevant facility if deemed necessary,” MOH said.
Seven such “swab operations” have been conducted over the past months in connection to newly emergent workplace clusters such as Keppel Shipyard and Northpoint City, MOH said.
“In all, more than 1,300 workers from these two workplaces were tested. Two positive cases were uncovered, in addition to six who were tested as persons under quarantine as a result of their close contact with the confirmed cases,” MOH said.
Beyond workplaces, swab operations were also done at retail premises frequented by multiple positive cases, MOH said. As part of this, close to 60 employees of Sheng Siong supermarket at New World Centre and more than 40 employees at Haniffa supermarket at Dunlop Street were tested. None tested positive, MOH said.
MOH also placed 58 households residing at Block 111 Tampines Street 11 under phone surveillance and facilitated COVID-19 testing for them and their visitors, as a precautionary measure, after there were confirmed cases in two households residing at the block.
“So far, no new cases were detected,” MOH said.
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As part of general surveillance efforts, MOH has been using a combination of different testing methods to pick up early signals of emerging clusters, it said. This includes the National Environment Agency’s waste-water testing, implemented at 34 workers dormitories.
NEW CASES IN THE COMMUNITY REMAIN LOW: GAN KIM YONG
At a COVID-19 press conference held on the same day, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that the number of new cases in the community has remained low – an average of nine per day in the past week compared to 12 cases per day the week before.
The number of unlinked cases in the community has also remained low, at a “handful”, Mr Gan said. There are about five such cases a day per week, he said.
“Unlinked cases picked up from those who presented with acute respiratory infection or ARI has remained low at about three cases in the past week, and that is three cases in the week, not three cases per day. This is in spite of the expanded community testing criteria from July 1,” Mr Gan said.
While the number of imported cases has increased, this has arisen from returning Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, and work-pass and long-term pass holders, he said.
“All of them have been isolated, or placed on 14 days’ Stay-home Notice upon arrival in Singapore. The risk of transmission to the community is therefore very low,” he said.
THINGS CAN "EASILY CHANGE"
While Singapore is now on a good footing, this can “easily change” if there is a big cluster, which may spawn second or third generations of infection, Mr Gan said.
“This is why the MOH has been actively identifying high risk settings to aggressively test and contact-trace cases. Coupled with surveillance, this will give us an early sense of emerging cases,” he said.
No matter how much we do in terms of screening and surveillance. The role of the individual is critical in our fight against COVID-19. Safe-distancing measures, good personal hygiene and mask-wearing remain the mainstay of our fight against the virus, so that we can continue to keep transmissions low.
From an analysis of the activity patterns of the community cases, it was found that about 40 per cent of these community cases had continued to engage in activities, after symptoms on onset, and before they were isolated, Mr Gan added.
Of these, about a third went to work, and many also visited shopping centres, supermarkets and hawker centres, he said.
“Such behavior jeopardises our collective efforts to fight COVID-19, and could lead to infections of loved ones, friends and colleagues," he said.
"We urge everyone to see a doctor early. If you feel unwell, and to stay at home throughout the duration of your medical leave or before your swab results come back."
Watch the full press conference: