COVID-19: Singapore confirms record high of 287 more cases, new Shaw Lodge dormitory cluster

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter

SINGAPORE — Singapore on Thursday (9 April) confirmed 287 more coronavirus cases – a record single-day high – and a new cluster at a foreign worker dormitory, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 1,910.

The figure, first announced by the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce at a virtual press conference and later in the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s daily update, is more than double that of Wednesday’s report of 142 cases.

Of the 287 new cases, only three cases are imported.

Meanwhile, more than 200 are related to clusters at foreign worker dorms, partly due to the authorities’ efforts to step up testing among the group, said Health Minister and taskforce co-chair Gan Kim Yong.

Some 19 cases have been linked to other cases, while 48 remain unlinked.

(SOURCE: MOH)

“Overall, we expect the number of cases to continue to rise in the short term before it stabilises, because it will take time for the circuit breaker measures to take effect,” added Gan.

Some 54 more cases have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities, bringing the total of recovered patients to 460.

Most of the 884 remaining hospitalised patients are stable or improving, while 29 remain in the intensive care unit. Six individuals have died from COVID-19 complications.

A new cluster at Shaw Lodge Dormitory at 12 Shaw Road was also identified by the MOH to be linked to five previously-announced cases. It is the 10th such dorm to be identified as an active cluster.

MOH Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak said that many of Thursday’s cases originated from the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, which is the largest cluster here to date with 160 cases.

He noted that the large number does not necessarily reflect the actual scale of “truly symptomatic” cases, as many workers who tested positive exhibited mild symptoms or are well and were only diagnosed after authorities started active case finding and swab-testing in dorms here.

S11 is one of four foreign worker dorms gazetted as social isolation areas alongside Westlite Toh Guan Dormitory, Toh Guan Dormitory, and Sungei Tengah Lodge. Workers residing there must not leave their rooms for 14 days.

Other dorms that have been identified as active virus clusters include Tampines Dormitory, Kranji Lodge, a 55 Sungei Kadut Loop dorm as well as Cochrane Lodge I and II. In total, 460 cases are linked to such places of residence, forming close to a quarter of overall cases here.

People queue to buy protective masks at Mustafa Centre on 8 February, 2020. (Getty Images file photo)

Links between Mustafa Centre, five foreign worker dorms

Preliminary links have also been established between clusters at Mustafa Centre, the Project Glory construction site, as well as five foreign worker dorms, said Assoc Prof Mak.

He added that authorities believed that the foreign workers had visited the mall, which is popular with South Asian workers. Some employees there had fallen ill and likely infected the workers.

Subsequently, these workers passed the virus on to co-workers or fellow dorm residents via close contact.

Prof Mak explained, “The transmissions most likely occurred on close contact, for example, at mealtimes during breaks, but also between co-workers at work due to physical proximity at the worksite, and subsequently (spread) to colleagues and friends within the dormitories as they engage in social activities.”

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong noted that many of these cases had very mild symptoms and continued to work, resulting in a delay in picking them up.

“It is very likely that the virus spread had been going around for some time in the dormitories, and we are now seeing all the indicators of it,” said Wong, who is also the taskforce co-chair.

He stressed Singapore is dealing with two separate infections – one where numbers are rising sharply within foreign worker dorms and another where numbers are currently more stable in the general population.

“This is a very major and urgent issue that requires active intervention, and that is why at the taskforce level, we decided to put in more resources and to set up a dedicated taskforce focusing on the foreign worker dormitories,” said Wong, of the separate effort announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday.

Man who died while awaiting test results had heart disease

In response to media queries about the 32-year-old male Indian national who had died while awaiting test results for the virus, Prof Mak said the initial assessment was that the man’s death was not directly related to COVID-19.

“He had, in fact, other medical problems that could have contributed to (his death),” he added.

After visiting the hospital for a variety of different symptoms, the long-term pass holder had been swabbed at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for the virus on Tuesday.

As he was quite well at the time and his symptoms were not assessed to be serious enough for hospitalisation, the man was sent home to rest and wait for his test results, Prof Mak said.

“Subsequently, he was found to have passed away very suddenly and only after his death that his test results...(came out) positive,” he added.

The MOH on Wednesday said that a chest X-ray indicated the man did not have pneumonia.

The ministry later on Thursday said that his death was due to ischaemic heart disease, not complications from COVID-19 infection.

Separately, the MOH said it has identified 20,008 close contacts who have been quarantined as of Thursday noon. Of these, 5,642 are currently quarantined and 14,366 have completed their quarantine.

A total of 72,680 swabs have also been tested, of which 47,486 were from unique individuals.

According to the ministry’s latest situation report, 375 of 1,342 local transmissions have no established links. Some 63,300 stay-home notices have been served, with 15,400 currently active.

Measures to combat spread of coronavirus

On Tuesday, the government passed the COVID-19 Temporary Measures Bill in Parliament, giving it the legal basis to enforce the enhanced safe distancing measures that began on the same day and will last till 4 May.

Part of these “circuit breaker” measures – announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Friday – include the closure of schools and most workplaces. Lee also said that Singapore will no longer discourage the public from wearing face masks.

Only essential services like food establishments, markets and supermarkets, transport, and key banking services will remain open during the month-long closure.

Separately, all Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning from overseas apart from Hubei province must serve the 14-day stay-home notice, while those returning from Hubei must serve a 14-day quarantine. All short-term visitors are barred from entering or transiting via Singapore.

Anyone who flouts the 14-day stay-home notice by leaving the place of accommodation or residence they are serving the notice in will be subjected to steep penalties.

Patients who flout their five-day medical leave can face steep penalties such as a fine of up to $10,000 or a maximum jail term of six months, or both, according to the Infectious Diseases Act.

The same penalties also apply to those who intentionally sit on a seat or stand in a queue less than one metre away from another person in public venues.

Those on five-day sick leave or serving a stay-home notice must also wear a mask if they have to leave their place of accommodation to seek emergency medical treatment.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced an additional $5.1 billion Solidarity Budget to help businesses and households.

The government’s response to COVID-19 will total $59.9 billion, or about 12 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product.

Over 1.5m cases globally

To date, there are more than 1.5 million COVID-19 cases globally.

Almost 89,000 have died from the virus, with Italy and Spain accounting for close to 40 per cent of the total.

At over 435,000 cases, the US now holds the record of having the largest number of patients globally, followed by Spain at over 148,000 cases, Italy at almost 140,000, followed by Germany at over 113,000.

China, where the virus originated, has close to 82,000 cases and on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus deaths for the first time since it started publishing figures in January.

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