UPDATE: The story was updated on 14 February with more details on some of the cases.
SINGAPORE —The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (13 February) confirmed eight new cases of the novel coronavirus – the highest in a single day here to date – bringing the total number of cases here to 58.
With the assistance of the police, further epidemiological investigations and contact tracing found that five of the new cases are linked to the Grace Assembly of God cluster, while two are linked to the cluster at Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site, said the ministry.
The remaining case is a family member of a DBS employee, who tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
All eight had no recent travel history to China. “MOH has initiated epidemiological investigations and contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact with the cases,” the ministry added.
This brings the total number of local transmissions of the virus to 36, more than half of the tally. In all, seven patients have no established links to any previous cases or travel history to mainland China.
Case 51, 53, 54, 57 & 58: NUS professor among cases linked to Grace Assembly of God
One of the five new cases linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God is a 48-year-old male Singaporean.
The man, who resides at Bishan Street 13, reported developing symptoms on 4 February and sought treatment at a general practitioner clinic last Wednesday and on Monday.
He went to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) on Tuesday, where he is currently warded in an isolation room, and tested positive for the virus in the afternoon the next day.
Prior to that, he went to work at two branches of Grace Assembly of God at 355 Tanglin Road and 1 Bukit Batok West Avenue 4.
Another case linked to the cluster is a 54-year-old male Singaporean who works at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The university has identified him as a professor from its School of Design & Environment who attends the church.
The Hillview Avenue resident reported developing symptoms on Monday and went to the NCID two days later where he was immediately isolated and is currently warded. He tested positive for the virus on Wednesday afternoon.
Prior to his hospital admission, he reported that he had mostly stayed at home and had not interacted with colleagues and students after developing symptoms.
“His last contact with students was on 5 February 2020. Staff who were in close contact with the professor were swiftly put on Leave of Absence and we are providing them with assistance and support,” the university said in a statement on Thursday.
The three remaining Singaporeans linked to this cluster – a 55-year-old woman, a 26-year-old man, and a 55-year-old man – work at the church.
They tested positive for the virus on Thursday morning and are currently warded in separate isolation rooms at the NCID.
The 55-year-old woman, who works at the church’s Tanglin branch, reported developing symptoms on Monday and had sought treatment at a general practitioner clinic the next day.
Prior to her hospital admission on Wednesday, she had mostly stayed at her home at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, except to seek medical treatment.
The 26-year-old man reported onset of symptoms on Tuesday and had gone to the NCID on the same day where he was immediately isolated. Prior to his hospital admission, the Senja Road resident had gone to work at the church.
The 55-year-old man reported onset of symptoms on Monday and went to the NCID two days later. Prior to his hospital admission, the Jalan Kelichap resident had gone to work at the church.
The church’s Senior pastor Wilson Teo said in a message to members on Thursday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and has been warded in the NCID since Tuesday. He assured the members that he is recovering well.
Rev Teo said the church’s two branches will be closed from Friday to 25 February while a two-week suspension of all services and activities began on Wednesday.
Case 52 & 56: Two Bangladeshis linked to Seletar Aerospace Heights
One of the two new cases linked to the cluster at Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site is a 37-year-old male Bangladesh national who is a Singapore work pass holder.
The man reported developing symptoms last Friday, and as he was identified as a close contact of two previously confirmed cases in the same cluster - both compatriots - he was transported by an ambulance to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Tuesday.
He tested positive for the virus on Wednesday afternoon and is currently warded in an isolation room at the NCID.
Prior to his hospital admission, he had gone to work at the construction site and reported mostly stayed at his rental apartment at Campbell Lane since developing symptoms.
The second case is a 30-year-old man – also a Bangladesh national – who tested positive for the virus on Thursday morning and is currently warded in an isolation room at the NCID.
He had been identified as a close contact of a previous case and was quarantined at a government quarantine facility. The man reported developing symptoms on Wednesday and was brought to Tan Tock Seng Hospital where he was immediately isolated.
The addition brings the total number of Bangladesh nationals confirmed with the virus in Singapore to four.
Case 55: Family member linked to DBS employee
The case linked to a Singaporean DBS bank employee is a 30-year-old family member who had tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning.
The Singaporean is currently warded in an isolation room at the NCID. He reported developing symptoms on 30 January and had sought treatment at a general practitioner clinic on the same day, and again on 3 February.
Prior to his hospital admission on Wednesday, the Mei Hwan Drive resident had gone to work at Pulau Bukom and attended mass at the Church of Christ the King at 2221 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8.
The 62-year-old bank employee was confirmed as a case on Wednesday during a conference led by a multi-ministry taskforce for the virus and works at DBS Asia Central at Marina Bay Financial Centre.
The ministry shared more details on the man on Thursday.
It said that he had reported developing symptoms last Friday and had sought treatment at two general practitioner clinics on the same day as well as Monday and Tuesday.
He was admitted to the NCID on Tuesday and was immediately isolated. He tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning and is currently warded in an isolation room at the NCID.
Prior to his hospital admission, other than going to work, he had stayed at his home at Mei Hwan Drive, except to seek medical treatment.
Update on remaining patients, suspect cases
As of Thursday, 15 patients have fully recovered and have been discharged. Six were discharged on Wednesday and none were discharged on Thursday.
Most of the remaining 43 hospitalised cases are stable or improving.
Seven remain in critical condition in the intensive care unit, with no “clear pattern” among them.
As of Thursday noon, 711 of the suspect cases have tested negative for the virus while results for the remaining 82 are pending.
The MOH has also identified 1,278 close contacts as of noon. Of the 1,161 still in Singapore, 1,144 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining 17 close contacts.
There are now at least five identified clusters, including those associated with health products shop Yong Thai Hang along Cavan Road, The Life Church and Missions Singapore in Paya Lebar as well as a business meeting at the Grand Hyatt hotel.
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.
On Wednesday, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, MOH director of medical services, noted that the peak of the virus outbreak in other countries, may occur one to two months after it peaks in China.
A senior medical adviser for China’s government had said in a media report that the outbreak would peak later this month in the country, and may be over by April.
However, Prof Mak stressed that it is “too early” for local authorities to accurately predict the outbreak’s pattern here as more data is required to do so.
“You need to see, for example, more cases in the country, to understand exactly an outbreak that occurs in the country itself,” he added.
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), COVID-19 has spread to 27 territories beyond mainland China, sickening over 60,000 people worldwide. The WHO also said that cases being transmitted by people who have never travelled to China could be the "tip of the iceberg".
By territory, Singapore has the second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases after mainland China.
The global tally includes cruise ship Diamond Princess, moored off Japan, which has 218 cases. Five Singaporeans on board the ship have reported that they are physically well, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson on Wednesday, in response to Yahoo News Singapore’s queries.
China's death toll from the epidemic at over 1,300 has surpassed the total fatalities globally from the SARS outbreak. On Saturday, the US embassy confirmed that a US citizen died that day in Wuhan.
Three territories, Japan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, have each reported the death of a patient infected with 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.
The Chinese government has dismissed two senior health officials from Hubei province where some 56 million people, including in its capital Wuhan, have been under lockdown since late last month.
China has 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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