COVID-19: S'pore crosses 12,000 mark with 897 new cases, confirms 9 more clusters

People have their identity cards checked ahead of buying groceries amid the COVID-19 outbreak here on 23 April, 2020. (PHOTO: Reuters)
People have their identity cards checked ahead of buying groceries amid the COVID-19 outbreak here on 23 April, 2020. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (24 April) confirmed 897 new COVID-19 cases and nine more clusters in Singapore, bringing the total to 12,075 – the highest recorded in Southeast Asia.

This comes four days after it confirmed a single-day high of 1,426 new cases. The last time the city-state reported a three-digit increase was last Sunday (19 April).

Of the new cases, 853, or 95 per cent, are foreign workers living in dormitories.

At least five of nine clusters identified are linked to such dorms, including Alaunia Lodge at Admiralty Road West, SSKBJV Dormitory at 31A Tanah Merah Coast Road, Westlite Juniper at 23 Mandai Estate, 10 Shaw Road and 11 Tuas Avenue 10, home to Joylicious dormitory.

The remaining four include massage and wellness spa Natureland East Coast at 907 East Coast Road, Strand Hotel at 25 Bencoolen Street, 112 Neythal Road, and 2 Sungei Kadut Avenue.

As with previous days, the MOH said many of the cases in dorms are being picked up due to extensive testing.

“Most of these cases have a mild illness and are being monitored in the community isolation facilities or general ward of our hospitals. None of them is in the intensive care unit,” the ministry added.

Of the remaining cases, 19 are foreign workers living outside dorms while 25 are cases in the community, including 13 Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Overall, 32 per cent of the new cases have no established links.

The MOH said the number of new cases in the community has decreased from an average of 31 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 25 per day in the past week.

Among the local cases in the community is a 43-year-old Singaporean woman, identified as case 11,580, who works as a nurse at Bukit Merah Polyclinic.

The woman, who had no recent travel history to affected countries or regions, reported developing symptoms on 20 April. The nurse tested positive for the virus three days later and is currently warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. She had not gone to work since developing the symptoms.

The ministry also noted that the number of unlinked cases in the community has also decreased, from an average of 20 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 17 per day in the past week.

“We will continue to closely monitor these numbers, as well as the cases detected through our surveillance programme,” it added.

Separately, the MOH said that the number of new cases among foreign workers residing outside dorms has continued to increase, from an average of 19 cases per day in the week before, to an average of 28 per day in the past week.

It added that the cluster at Fengshan PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots preschool at 126 Bedok North Street 2 is considered closed as there have been no cases linked to it for the past two incubation periods, or 28 days.

Around 50 clusters linked to foreign worker dormitories have been identified thus far, including Singapore’s largest cluster of 2,263 cases linked to S11 Dormitory@Punggol, followed by Sungei Tengah Lodge linked to 871 cases and Tuas View Dormitory linked to 854 cases.

The three are among the 25 dorms that have been gazetted as isolation areas and account for some 40 per cent of the total 9,929 infected cases living in dorms across Singapore.

Some 300,000 foreign workers live in dorms here in Singapore.

(For details on the breakdown of clusters, read here.)

38 more patients recovered, 24 in ICU

The MOH on Friday also said 38 more patients have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 956 patients have fully recovered and have been discharged.

Most of the 1,229 hospitalised cases are stable or improving, while 24 are in critical condition in the intensive care unit, down from 26 on Thursday.

A total of 9,878 cases with mild symptoms or are clinically well but still test positive for the virus are isolated and cared for at community facilities.

To date, 12 cases here have died from complications due to COVID-19 infection, including an 84-year-old Singaporean woman who succumbed to the virus on Tuesday night.

Three patients, who tested positive for the virus, have died from causes unrelated to COVID-19. The latest such fatality was a 40-year-old Malaysian man who died of a heart attack on Saturday. He had tested positive for the virus the day before.

Separately, a 46-year-old Indian migrant worker, identified by the ministry as case 8190, died after being found at a staircase landing in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on Thursday. He had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his death.

“The cause of death for case 8190 was multiple injuries consistent with those resulting from a fall from height, and was not due to complications from COVID-19 infection,” the ministry said on Friday.

As of 20 April, the ministry has conducted 121,774 swab tests, of which 82,644 were done on unique individuals.

Circuit breaker period extended, more shops to suspend operations

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the end of the circuit breaker period will be extended by four weeks to 1 June, from 4 May as previously planned.

Tighter measures will also be in place during this extension, including entry to certain wet markets on alternate dates based on one’s identification number. Less critical businesses, such as bubble tea shops and those predominantly selling pastries or cakes, will be closed from 11.59pm on Tuesday until at least 4 May.

Authorities have previously progressively closed other venues during the circuit breaker period, including stadiums, beaches, facilities in parks and gardens and playfields.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also on Tuesday announced that the Solidarity Budget will be boosted by a further $3.8 billion, bringing the government’s total financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic to more than $63 billion.

The COVID-19 Temporary Measures Act, passed in Parliament on 7 April, gives authorities the power to ban events and gatherings, or impose conditions on how they are conducted, during the circuit breaker period.

Those caught flouting the enhanced safe distancing measures, including compulsory mask-wearing, for the first time will be given a composition fine of $300, and a $1,000 fine for the second time.

Egregious cases will be prosecuted in court. A first-time offender who is prosecuted under the Act can face a maximum fine of $10,000, or a jail term of up to six months, or both. A second-time or subsequent offender can face a maximum fine of $20,000, or a jail term of up to a year, or both.

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.

Over 2.7m cases globally

To date, there are over 2.7 million COVID-19 cases globally – it took 83 days to reach the first million cases worldwide and just 14 days for the second million.

Some 194,000 have died from the virus, with the US holding the record for the highest global death toll at close to 51,000.

At more than 894,000 cases, the country also holds the record of having the largest number of patients globally, followed by Spain at over 219,000 cases, Italy at over 192,000, and France with over 158,000 cases.

China, where the virus originated, has reported almost 83,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths, after it abruptly readjusted its death toll higher by 50 per cent last Friday.

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