SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed 327 more COVID-19 cases on Friday (17 July), bringing the total to 47,453, as well as the death of a 15th COVID-19 patient from unrelated causes.
A 72-year-old Singaporean woman, who died on Wednesday, was confirmed to have the infection a day after her death from intracerebral haemorrhage.
The ministry also announced an additional cluster of three cases linked to a construction site at Paya Lebar Quarter Tower 2.
Of the new cases, nine – including the 72-year-old fatality, one of six Singaporeans – are classified as cases in the community, while three – including a Singaporean and two one-year-old babies – are imported cases.
The remaining 315 are foreign workers residing in dormitories. Overall, only one per cent of the new cases have no established links.
All but one of the nine community cases are linked to previous cases or clusters.
Of them, four – cases 47434, 47445, 47504 and 47521 – had been identified as contacts of previously confirmed cases, and had been placed on quarantine earlier.
“They were tested during their quarantine to determine their status, even though three of them are asymptomatic,” said the MOH.
The fifth case – case 47502 – was identified from the testing of individuals working in frontline COVID-19 operations. He is linked to the cluster at Blue Stars Dormitory.
The remaining three – cases 47242, 47508 and 47509 – were swabbed under the enhanced community testing programme to test all individuals aged 13 and above who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection at first presentation to a doctor. Case 47242 is linked to a cluster at Toh Guan Dormitory.
The sole unlinked community case is the 72-year-old woman – case 47229 – who had been hospitalised for reasons not related to COVID-19 and subsequently tested positive following her demise.
Among the three imported cases, case 47522 is a Singaporean who returned from the Philippines on 6 July.
The remaining cases are children who are dependant’s pass or long-term visit pass holders who arrived in Singapore from India on 26 June (case 47389) and 15 July (case 47529).
“All of them had been placed on 14-day stay-home notice upon arrival in Singapore, and had been tested while serving their notice,” said the MOH.
The ministry added that the number of new cases in the community has decreased, from an average of 16 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 11 per day in the past week.
Similarly, the number of unlinked cases in the community has also decreased, from an average of eight cases per day in the week before, to an average of six per day in the past week, it said.
Singapore must be prepared for ‘second wave’
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong during an online press conference on Friday said that about seven in 10 of unlinked cases here were asymptomatic, and almost half likely to be past infections as they are tested positive in serology tests.
Gan, who is the multi-ministry COVID-19 taskforce co-chair, said authorities are keeping an especially close watch on symptomatic unlinked cases in the community.
“If these cases start rising, it could be an early signal to us that there may be an increase in the underlying transmission in the community,” he added. To this end, authorities from 1 July began testing all individuals aged 13 and above who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI) symptoms at first presentation to a doctor.
They are now “testing around 2,400 ARI cases a day on average”, Gan said.
“Even with this rigorous testing, the number of unlinked COVID-19 cases detected through this ARI screening in the community has remained stable, and continues to be in the low single digits. This suggests that the prevalence in the community remains low,” he added.
However, he cautioned that Singapore must be prepared for a second wave, despite best efforts to avoid the scenario. He cited examples in South Korea, where door-to-door sales resulted in over 200 infected cases, and in Tokyo, Japan, where more than 300 cases have been linked to nightlife establishments.
These examples show the type of settings and activities – where there is close and prolonged contact among individuals – that are more susceptible to transmission, said Gan.
“That is why in Singapore, we have taken a cautious approach in easing restrictions for some activities that we know to be of higher risk,” he said.
Clearance of dorm workers set to complete by mid-Aug
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong during the same press conference noted that the government is in the “final stretch” of clearing the workers living in dorms and is set to complete the work by mid-August, or possibly earlier.
“We believe that we can complete this work by mid-August – possibly earlier than that. So we are doing everything we can to complete that work and to allow the workers to resume work safely thereafter,” he said.
Around 230,000 workers have either recovered or have tested to be free from the virus to date, Wong, who is the multi-ministry COVID-19 taskforce co-chair, added. This figure comprises over two-thirds of those living in dorms.
“The remaining workers that we are looking at – all of them have been isolated. In fact, they are mostly waiting for their final exit tests, as it were, to be tested at the end of isolation, and then we decide whether they are negative or positive,” he said.
Of Singapore’s total COVID-19 tally, 44,719 – over 94 per cent – are foreign workers living in dorms.
92% of cases recovered, zero in ICU
With 321 more patients discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities on Friday, 43,577 cases – some 92 per cent of the total tally – have fully recovered from the infection.
Most of the 165 hospitalised cases are stable or improving, while none are in critical condition in the intensive care unit for the first time in months.
A total of 3,684 patients with mild symptoms or are clinically well but still test positive are isolated and cared for at community facilities.
Apart from 27 patients who have died from COVID-19 complications, 15 others who tested positive for the virus were determined to have died from unrelated causes, including three whose deaths were attributed to a heart attack and another four, whose deaths were attributed to coronary heart disease.
“Only cases where the attending doctor or pathologist attributes the primary or underlying cause of death as due to COVID-19 infection will be added to the COVID-19 death count,” said the MOH in previous press releases, adding that the method of assessment is consistent with international practices for classifying deaths.
As of 13 July, the ministry has conducted 1,009,532 swab tests, of which 519,911 were done on unique individuals. This translates to around 177,100 swabs conducted per 1 million total population, and about 91,200 unique individuals swabbed per 1 million total population.
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