SINGAPORE — The original source of multiple novel coronavirus cases linked to an international business meeting held at Grand Hyatt here has yet to be identified, said a senior Ministry of Health (MOH) official on Friday (7 February).
Responding to questions asked by reporters during a press conference led by the multi-ministry taskforce for the virus, Assoc Prof Kenneth Mak, MOH director of medical services, added that the local authorities are currently unable to provide the full list of countries where the foreign participants are from.
The internal meeting, held at Grand Hyatt Singapore from 20 to 22 January, was attended by 109 staff from an as-yet-unnamed multinational sales firm.
Ninety-four foreign participants, including a Chinese delegate from Wuhan where the virus originated, have since left Singapore.
At least five attendees and one of their siblings have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCov, including a 27-year-old Singaporean man as well as British, Malaysian, and South Korean nationals.
“Because (the foreign participants have left), we have passed their particulars to our counterparts in the relevant countries for them to do further contact tracing, to then check on their well being and health statuses,” said Prof Mak.
“They have yet to inform us of the results of their own investigations, therefore we will not be able to tell you about the status of all the participants who attended the meeting.”
When pressed on the identity of the firm, he said that local authorities are not at liberty to disclose the name of the company as investigations are ongoing.
However, reports have indicated that the event was organised by Servomex, a firm founded in the UK in 1952 with offices in several countries.
The firm, which described itself as an “expert provider of reliable, accurate and stable gas measurements” on its website, has an office here at Pacific Tech Centre at Jalan Kilang Timor. Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to Servomex for comment.
Six cases from S’pore, UK, M’sia, S Korea
The 27-year-old Singaporean man confirmed as a case of the virus by the MOH on Thursday was one of 15 Singapore residents who attended the meeting.
Before his hospital admission at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), the Shunfu Road resident visited Far East Square at 19 China Street and Junction 8 at Bishan.
Three other Singapore residents who have reported symptoms are currently assessed at the NCID while 11 others have reported being well.
The spate of at least six cases linked to the meeting has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to begin an investigation into them.
The relevant governments “are sharing information and coordinating with each other, while keeping the WHO informed”, said spokesperson Olivia Lawe Davies, in response to questions by Yahoo News Singapore.
"(As) countries are stepping up surveillance, the detection of more cases of local transmission can be expected."
On Tuesday, a 41-year-old Malaysian man who attended the meeting was the first from the event – and the first citizen of Malaysia – to be confirmed as a case by Malaysian authorities. His sister was also later confirmed to have the virus.
South Korea also confirmed two cases involving its citizens, including a 38-year-old man. The country’s media reported that the Koreans and the Malaysian man shared a buffet meal during the meeting.
Separately, Prof Mak confirmed that a middle-aged man, who became the UK's third confirmed case and the first British national to contract the virus, was linked to the meeting, without disclosing more details.
The taskforce announced during the briefing that the disease outbreak response level has been raised to “orange” from “yellow”.
Three new cases of the novel coronavirus with no links to previous cases or recent travel history to China were also announced, including a female teacher from Victoria Junior College.
This brings the number of confirmed cases with no links to previous cases or travel history to China to four and the total number to 33, the second-highest number of such cases outside mainland China behind Japan’s 86.
Two of the 33 cases have been discharged, while two, who have no significant health issues, are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
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.
The coronavirus – which has been declared a global emergency by the WHO last week – has spread to 27 territories beyond mainland China, sickening over 31,000 people worldwide.
China's death toll from the epidemic soared to 636 on Friday, exceeding the 349 mainland fatalities from the SARS outbreak.
Two territories, Hong Kong and the Philippines, have each reported the death of a patient from the virus.
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