SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (11 February) confirmed two new cases of the novel coronavirus, both local transmissions, bringing the total number of cases to 47 here.
Both have no recent travel history to China. This brings the total number of local transmissions of the virus, also known as 2019-nCoV, to 25, more than half of the tally.
Case 46: RSW casino employee
One of the new cases is a 35-year-old male Singapore permanent resident who lives in Johor Bahru and works in Singapore.
He had gone to work at Resorts World Sentosa Casino prior to his hospital admission on Sunday.
The man reported symptoms last Wednesday and had sought treatment at a general practitioner clinic four days later.
He was later transferred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital via an ambulance on the same day and was immediately isolated. He is currently warded in an isolation room at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
A Resorts World Sentosa spokesperson said in a media statement on Tuesday, “We have identified employees who have interacted with the staff member recently and instructed them to go on 14 days leave of absence. We will work closely with MOH to monitor their conditions.
“Deep cleaning, thorough disinfection and sanitisation have been carried out at all areas and touch-points where the employee had come into contact with.
“Over and above, we have rolled out enhanced initiatives. These include: thermal scanners to carry out temperature screening for all visitors deployed at key entry points; increased frequency of cleaning, disinfection and sanitisation of guest touch-points according to guidelines by the National Environment Agency; and hand sanitisers widely available across the entire resort.
“We have made it mandatory for all RWS employees to take their temperatures twice daily. Employees are instructed to defer all personal and business travel to Mainland China. Those who have travelled to Mainland China in the last 14 days are placed on mandatory leave of absence for 14 days upon their return to Singapore.”
Case 47: 2nd Bangladesh national
The second case is a 39-year-old male Bangladesh national who is a Singapore Work Pass holder.
Prior to his admission on Monday into the NCID where he is currently warded and isolated, he had gone to work at 10 Seletar Aerospace Heights, the same location where a 39-year-old compatriot, a previous confirmed case, had worked.
He reported symptoms last Thursday and sought treatment at a general practitioner clinic the next day. The man had stayed at his rental apartment at Veerasamy Road since developing the symptoms, except to visit the clinic.
He went to the NCID on Monday and tested positive for the virus in the afternoon.
The MOH has said that the risk of infection from transient contact, such as on public transport or in public places, is assessed to be low for the general public.
Nine patients discharged; 7 remain in ICU
Nine patients have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospital. Among them are a 53-year-old female Chinese national and a 35-year-old male compatriot, both from Wuhan where the virus originated.
The latest to be discharged is a husband-and-wife pair, both 56, and also Chinese nationals from Wuhan.
Of the 38 confirmed cases who are still hospitalised, most are stable or improving.
Seven remain in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
As of Tuesday noon, 608 of the suspect cases have tested negative for the virus, while test results for the remaining 43 are pending.
Contact tracing for the confirmed cases is ongoing, said the ministry.
It added that epidemiological investigations and contact tracing have uncovered links between 15 of 25 local transmitted cases with the three currently-known clusters: The Life Church and Missions Singapore, Yong Thai Hang and the private business meeting held at Grand Hyatt Singapore from 20 to 22 January.
Contact tracing is underway for the other 10 locally transmitted cases to establish if they are linked to previous cases or persons with travel history to mainland China, the MOH said.
As of Tuesday noon, 1,124 close contacts have been identified. Of the 1,021 who are still in Singapore, 989 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated.
Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining 32 close contacts, said the ministry.
It reiterated its advice for Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei province, home to its capital Wuhan, and all non-essential travel to mainland China.
Singapore is the territory with the third-highest number of cases outside mainland China, behind Japan’s 163 and Hong Kong’s 49. A total of 135 of Japan’s cases are aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off the country.
Given the heightened risk, authorities last Friday raised Singapore’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) alert level from yellow to orange amid the increase in confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
It also announced a series of measures to be taken, including the suspension of inter-school and external activities for schools until the end of the March school holidays and advising event organisers to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events.
Death toll surpasses SARS epidemic
The novel strain belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-2003 outbreak and also started in China.
It likely originated from Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market, where live animals or products – such as foxes, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, porcupines, and camel meat – are sold.
Declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus has spread to 27 territories beyond mainland China, sickening over 43,000 people worldwide.
The WHO also said that cases of the coronavirus being transmitted by people who have never travelled to China could be the "tip of the iceberg".
China's death toll from the epidemic rose to over 1,000 on Tuesday, surpassing the total fatalities globally from the SARS outbreak. On Saturday, the US embassy confirmed that a US citizen died that day in Wuhan.
Two territories, Hong Kong and the Philippines, have each reported the death of a patient from the virus. More than 100 people were evacuated from a 35-storey Hong Kong housing block on Tuesday after two residents in different apartments tested positive for the virus.
Patients suffering from the new strain may exhibit fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness – such as coughing or difficulty in breathing – as well as pneumonia-like symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, and headache.
However, some who have died from it have not displayed symptoms of fever, according to details released by China’s National Health Commission, potentially complicating global efforts to check for infected travellers as they arrive at airports and other travel hubs.
This means that temperature screening, the most common measure being used at transport links and airports to check travellers, may not identify some infected people.
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, dismissed two senior health officials from Hubei province where some 56 million people, including Wuhan, have been under lockdown since late last month.
They also tightened restrictions in the city, forbidding people with fever from visiting hospitals outside of their home districts and sealing off residential compounds.
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