SINGAPORE: The two large COVID-19 clusters in KTV lounges and the Jurong Fishery Port are linked, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jul 19), with infections genetically different from the virus variant seen in other local clusters.
"Our scientists are conducting the phylogenetic studies. Both clusters are linked," said Mr Ong in a Facebook post.
"Genetically, they differ from the Delta variant that infected Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport, but are closer to what we have detected in imported cases from Indonesia."
Studies were ongoing and the Ministry of Health (MOH) would explain its findings to the public when there were more conclusive results, said Mr Ong.
"One thing is clear – when countries in the region have big outbreaks, we are always at risk," he added.
"EXPECT MANY REPORTED CASES"
Mr Ong said the 88 new locally transmitted cases reported on Sunday - the country's highest so far this year - reflected "the transmissibility of the Delta variant, and was a result of the combined effect" of the two clusters.
"As we deal with these two big clusters, and test extensively, we should continue to expect many reported cases in the coming days, and must be prepared to make adjustments or even take decisive actions to suppress the cases," he said.
The cluster in KTV lounges was "settling down" with more than 5,000 employees, hostesses and patrons tested, and the number testing positive trending down day by day, said Mr Ong.
"But the Jurong Fishery Port cluster is rising worryingly, because it is seeding cases in various markets, and the communities around them," he said.
READ: Fresh fish and seafood stalls ordered to stop operating; stallholders to undergo COVID-19 test
Authorities have drawn up "four rings of defences" for the cluster, said Mr Ong.
In the first ring are 700 workers at Jurong Fishery Port who were all quarantined. "Several" cases were uncovered from this group, said Mr Ong.
The second ring involves more than 861 fishmongers, delivery drivers and others who had visited the port. They were issued health risk warnings requiring them to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and self-isolate until they received negative results.
Testing for this group has "more or less" been completed, with 26 cases detected among them - which is a "high number", said Mr Ong.
In the third ring are stallholders of all other markets who have been sent notifications to get tested as a precaution.
Residents living around the market make up the fourth ring; they have been advised to minimise movements and social interactions.
The National Environment Agency was setting up wastewater testing in as many locations as practicable, and MOH will mount special operations in these estates, said Mr Ong.
Mr Ong reminded those who are unvaccinated, especially the elderly, to stay home as much as possible.
"Even for the vaccinated, if you have an unvaccinated senior at home, try to minimise your movement and social interactions too, as you may inadvertently bring the virus home and harm the senior," he said.
Providing an update on vaccination rates, Mr Ong also said that by the end of Monday or Tuesday, Singapore should reach the milestone of half the population having received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Vaccination is gathering pace. For the past few weeks, we have vaccinated up to 80,000 a day. Demand has flipped towards second doses, which now account for about 70 per cent of all doses," he said.