22% of pre-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Singapore continued work, normal activities while sick

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SINGAPORE — More than a fifth – about 35 – of the 160 confirmed COVID-19 cases here continued to work or carried out their daily routine despite being sick, the multi-ministry taskforce on the virus said on Tuesday (10 March).

These cases did not minimise social contact even though they had already developed fever or respiratory symptoms, or did not consult a doctor early when they started feeling unwell, it added.

The taskforce urged the general public to practise social responsibility to slow down the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said, “We have been encouraging Singaporeans, regardless of age, to practise good personal hygiene and to be socially responsible.

“But I am very concerned that many of the locally transmitted cases resulted from the socially irresponsible actions of a few individuals who continued to go to work, attended events and participated in activities despite being unwell, and went on to spread the disease to others including their family members, friends as well as close contacts,” he added.

An example would be the cluster of 14 cases at Wizlearn Technologies. The taskforce noted in a press release on Tuesday that nine were staff members, and three of them had continued with daily activities despite feeling unwell.

One even spread the virus to a family contact, who also carried on with daily activities while presenting symptoms, it said.

“This in turn resulted in an additional four cases who had not worked at the company,” the taskforce added.

Meanwhile, of the 36 cases linked to the 15 February private dinner function at SAFRA Jurong – the country’s biggest cluster to-date – one case attended the event despite already feeling unwell and subsequently tested positive for the virus.

This potentially resulted in 18 additional cases who were at the dinner and later tested positive for the virus, the taskforce said.

Furthermore, 10 of these 18 cases continued with their daily activities despite feeling unwell, resulting in an additional 17 positive cases who had not been at the dinner.

‘Socially irresponsible behaviour poses a risk to all’

The taskforce also asked the public to refrain from doctor hopping so that the same doctor can follow up with each case and make the appropriate assessment if a case needs to be tested for the virus.

Of the 160 confirmed cases, 38 patients – or 24 per cent – had visited more than one general practitioner clinic. Among them, eight had visited three or more such clinics.

“This socially irresponsible behaviour poses a risk to all of us,” said Gan.

“The measures we have implemented will only work if individuals cooperate, and behave in socially responsible manner. So please work with us, so that we can keep our family and loved ones safe,” he added.

In its release, the taskforce also urged affected individuals to provide comprehensive and truthful accounts of their activities to the authorities so that effective contact tracing can be carried out.

“Our ability to carry out effective contact tracing requires the cooperation of individuals to provide comprehensive and truthful accounts about their activities when they are interviewed by the MOH’s public health officers,” it added.

“Otherwise, our ability to quickly get in contact with others who may have been infected and to ring-fence clusters will be delayed.”

The taskforce added, “We urge all Singaporeans to play their part in the fight against the virus. Those who are unwell, even with mild flu-like symptoms, should see a doctor and stay at home to prevent spreading the illness to others.”

(INFOGRAPHIC: Yahoo News Singapore)
(INFOGRAPHIC: Yahoo News Singapore)

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