Singapore sees record daily spike of 120 COVID-19 cases, 'significant number' linked to worker dormitories
Nearly 20,000 foreign workers are in quarantine after two dorms - S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite Toh Guan - have been gazetted as isolation areas.
SINGAPORE: Singapore reported 120 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday (Apr 5), the biggest daily increase since the outbreak began here in January, bringing the national total to 1,309.
Four of the new cases are imported and the remaining cases are locally transmitted. Twenty-three more patients have been discharged, taking the total number of people who have fully recovered to 320.
A "significant number" of the new cases are linked to existing clusters involving two foreign worker dormitories, S11 Dormitory @ Punggol and Westlite Toh Guan, said the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force in a press conference.
S11 Dormitory @ Punggol has 22 new cases and Westlite Toh Guan has 10 new cases.
Three new clusters have been identified, according to MOH's press release. These include one at Tampines Dormitory (three cases), another dormitory called Cochrane Lodge I (two cases) and a construction site at 6 Battery Road (four cases).
Among the local cases, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has established links to existing clusters for 50 cases. More than half - 66 cases - of the new cases are unlinked, and contact tracing is ongoing for these patients.
A total of 569 patients are still in hospital, most of whom are stable or improving. Twenty-five are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
In addition, 414 cases who are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19 are being isolated at Concord International Hospital Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital and the Community Isolation Facility at D’Resort NTUC.
2 DORMS GAZETTED AS ISOLATION AREAS
The Ministry of Health has gazetted two dormitories with the largest number of cases as isolation areas.
S11 Dormitory @ Punggol has a total of 63 cases and Westlite Toh Guan now has 28 confirmed cases.
A total of 19,800 workers across the two dormitories have been placed under quarantine and will have to stay in their rooms for the next 14 days.
Meals will be provided for the workers, as well as healthcare supplies including masks, thermometers and hand sanitiser, said the task force.
READ: Singapore Expo being prepared to house COVID-19 patients who have recovered but may still be infectious - Gan Kim Yong
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, said that it should be made clear that foreign workers do not have an inherently high risk of contracting COVID-19.
"It's not an issue of targeting a particular group, they are not of higher risk," said Mr Wong.
"The issue we have here is foreign worker dorms have now emerged as a cluster of infection, a new vector for transmission, despite the precautions we have taken."
READ: COVID-19: Singapore makes 'decisive move' to close most workplaces and impose full home-based learning for schools, says PM Lee
In a Facebook post on Sunday evening, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo elaborated on measures that are being taken in all dormitories other than the two gazetted as isolation areas.
For example, workers involved in essential services will be moved out of their dormitories and housed separately, with more spaces being converted for them, said Mrs Teo.
"Although the number of essential services workers in these dormitories is relatively small ... we would want to house them separately and move them out of the dormitories. We are actively converting more spaces and moving essential services workers into these spaces that are suitable for this purpose," she said.
Workers who are unwell will be relocated to isolated sick bays, even if they do not test positive for COVID-19, said Mrs Teo, adding that this is to "minimise the risk to everyone else".
"The key objective of all these measures is really to ensure the health and well-being of everyone - not just Singapore citizens but also foreign workers who are here, helping our economy, and their employers.
"They are also a part of the essential workforce which we would need when business activities restart. We want to give foreign workers the assurance that these measures are being taken in their interests and their well-being," said Mrs Teo.
Meanwhile the authorities are readying the Singapore Expo as a community care facility, according to Mr Gan. These facilities are meant for housing patients who have more or less recovered but who could still be infectious, he added.
NEW CLUSTERS FORMED
Besides the three new clusters found, more cases are now linked to previously announced clusters. Three additional cases are linked to the cluster at Toh Guan Dormitory which now has eight confirmed cases.
One additional case is linked to the cluster at Sungei Tengah Lodge, which now has four confirmed cases, while three additional cases are linked to the cluster at Project Glory, which now has 15 confirmed cases.
Nine additional cases are linked to the cluster at Mustafa Centre, which now has a total of 28 confirmed cases, and one additional case is linked to the cluster at Keppel Shipyard, which now has seven cases.
MORE CASES FROM PUBLIC HEALTHCARE SECTOR
Two more cases were reported from the public healthcare sector, including a doctor from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Case 1237 is a 35-year-old Singaporean woman with no recent travel history to affected countries or regions. She reported onset of symptoms on Apr 3 and subsequent test results confirmed COVID-19 infection the next day. She is currently warded in an isolation room at the Singapore General Hospital.
She is a doctor at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital but had not gone to work since onset of symptoms.
Case 1238 is a 27-year-old male Indian national who is a Singapore work pass holder and has no recent travel history to affected countries or regions. He reported onset of symptoms on Apr 3 and tested positive the next day. He is currently warded in an isolation room at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
The man works as a technician at the hospital. He had been at work for less than an hour after the onset of symptoms.
START "MAXIMUM DISTANCING" NOW
Mr Gan also spoke about the “circuit breaker” measures announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, which are set to take effect on Tuesday.
These measures include the closure of all workplaces except those running essential services, as well as the shift to full home-based learning for all schools. Dining in will no longer be allowed at restaurants, though these may still provide takeaway and delivery services.
READ: COVID-19: Heng Swee Keat to announce third round of support measures in new 'Solidarity Budget'
Singapore residents have also been advised to stay at home except for necessary activities such as buying food and groceries.
"I would like to encourage Singaporeans not to wait until tomorrow night because maximum distancing should start right now.
"If you don’t have to go out, please stay at home. If you need to go out, avoid going to places that you expect to have close contact with many people and ... take the necessary precautions ... then go home as soon as possible," he said.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the prime minister also urged people to stay at home.
Although Singapore is seeing a rise in locally transmitted cases, the number of new cases should gradually slow as people stay home and follow safe distancing rules, he said.
"With people staying away from workplaces, students on full home-based learning, and everyone following tighter safe distancing rules, the new cases should gradually slow down and we should get into a better position," said Mr Lee.
However for this to be effective, everyone has to cooperate and comply with restrictions, he added.
"Please stay home. If you must go out, please practise safe distancing. And remember to maintain good personal hygiene," he said. "The health of us all depends on the actions of each of us."
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Sunday a third round of support measures will be rolled out to help businesses and households tide through these unprecedented “circuit breaker” measures.
The “Solidarity Budget” will be announced when Parliament sits on Monday and comes less than two weeks after Mr Heng unveiled a record-breaking S$48 billion supplementary Budget.