Hoping worst days are behind, Singapore tightens virus containment measures

Nurul Azliah

The novel coronavirus outbreak that has slowed in China and other parts of Asia has grown rapidly outside the region in the last 24 hours.

Infections in Europe and South Korea continue to spread, with the United States warning its citizens yesterday that an outbreak there is inevitable. In Southeast Asia, some of those nations hardest hit outside China have seen rates of infection slow, with Singapore and Hong Kong reporting a handful of new cases each day.

Singapore says half its patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. In Hong Kong, new cases – around five a day – continue to emerge, with some bearing links to a single Buddhist temple. 

Malaysia and Vietnam haven’t reported new cases in over a week; The Philippines and Cambodia for considerably longer. All 16 of Vietnam’s patients have been “cured,” its health ministry reportedly said yesterday.

Here are major COVID-19 updates from the last 24 hours:

  • South Korea reported 169 new coronavirus cases today, including an American soldier, bringing its number of known infections to 1,146. The country also reported its 11th death today.
  • Japan reported 10 new cases yesterday, bringing its total to 861, 709 of which were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Known infections have been detected across 17 prefectures.
  • Iran’s deputy health minister tested positive for COVID-19. The country had 95 known infections and 15 deaths as of Wednesday morning.
  • Switzerland, Austria, and Croatia have confirmed their first cases. Two patients in Austria are believed to have contracted the virus in Italy, which has 323 reported cases and 11 deaths so far. Around a dozen towns across Italy’s Lombardy region, where the local outbreak emerged, and the Veneto region are on lockdown for two weeks. 
  • An Italian man tested positive for the virus in Algeria, the World Health Organization announced yesterday.
  • A thousand guests at a hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife have been quarantined after an Italian doctor and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. 
  • COVID-19 first emerged in China around mid-December. The infection has killed at least 2,700 people and spread to more than 78,000 people there so far. Guangdong province authorities announced today that at least 14 per cent of recovered patients tested positive for the virus again, suggesting that recovered patients may still carry the virus. 

Updates from our newsrooms around Southeast Asia and Hong Kong:

Singapore

  • Singapore’s Health Ministry last night confirmed that high numbers of infections that spread through two churches were linked through members who attended a Chinese New Year gathering. 
  • Five more people have been discharged from hospital, bringing the number of recoveries to 58. Seven are still in critical condition. 
  • One more case was reported yesterday involving a 58-year-old Singaporean woman who tested positive Feb. 22. She was linked to the 66th patient, who works for the Grace Assembly of God megachurch.
  • Singapore is tightening travel restrictions for foreign workers, regardless of nationality, who visited South Korea’s Daegu city and Cheongdo county. 
    • Starting at midnight, all work pass holders along with their dependents will need to obtain an approval letter from the Manpower Ministry before they can start their journeys to Singapore. This letter will be shown to airline and immigration staff.
    • All affected work pass holders will be put under mandatory stay-at-home notice for two weeks when they arrive in Singapore. Being put on Stay-At-Home notice is stricter than going on Leave of Absence as individuals are not allowed to leave their place of residence at any time.
  • Also effective at midnight, Singapore will bar entry and transit to travelers who’ve been in Daegu city or Cheongdo county in the last two weeks as part of measures to protect Singaporeans from the disease spreading from South Korea.

COVID-19: Here’s every coronavirus infection in Singapore on a map


Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong reported more cases last night, bringing the total number of infections in the city to 85. 
    • Case 82: A 33-year-old man, who is the son of the 72nd patient, was confirmed with ill Sunday. 
    • Cases 83 and 84: Mother and son pair linked to the Buddhist temple cluster in North Point. 
    • Case 85: A 60-year-old woman from Tai Hang. 

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Indonesia

  • An Indonesian health official told reporters yesterday there hasn’t been a spike in suspected COVID-19 cases in Bali, where an infected Japanese man had visited. 
    • “The current data since his arrival (in Bali) shows that there has been no (upward) fluctuation in influenza-like illnesses,” Health Ministry’s secretary of the directorate-general in-charge of disease and prevention control Achmad Yurianto was quoted by Channel NewsAsia as saying. “Also based on our monitoring of hospitals, which are in the area where we suspect they were staying, we have not found any new cases.”

Nearly 1,000 Chinese nationals applied for emergency stay permit in Bali: immigration

Malaysia

  • Malaysia has no new reports of COVID-19 cases. Two patients, including an American woman from the MS Westerdam cruise, are still being treated. Another 20 who previously tested positive for the virus have recovered, health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah reportedly said. 

Thailand

  • The number of known infections in Thailand stands at 37 as of Wednesday morning after two more cases were announced yesterday. A total of 22 people have been discharged from hospitals.

Manila

  • A total of 445 Filipinos were brought home to the country Tuesday after being stuck for two weeks at virus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess.
  • The repatriation did not include 80 who tested positive for COVID-19 and are being treated at hospitals in Japan. The 445 returnees, along with medical teams and other escorts, will undergo another 14-day lockdown at New Clark City in Tarlac.
  • The same quarantine site also previously housed 49 Filipinos from (30 repatriates, 19 medical personnel and crew) from Wuhan, who were released Saturday after completing their quarantine and testing negative for the virus
  • Virus cases officially remain at three — all Chinese nationals from Wuhan — including one who died, and two who reportedly recovered and left the country.

Additional reporting Khyne Palumar 

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This article, Hoping worst days are behind, Singapore tightens virus containment measures, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!