Jurong Fishery Port Delta variant likely introduced by boats

SINGAPORE – The Delta variant that was identified to be causing the infections within the Jurong Fishery Port cluster could have been introduced by fishing boats, said the Ministry of Health's (MOH) director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak on Tuesday (20 July).

Speaking at a virtual press conference, he said that through phylogenetic testing, "we identified that the VOC, or variant of concern, has features that (are) similar to what we have seen in other cases that were picked up in imported cases from Indonesia".

"So, we believe that COVID-19 infection in this cluster has been introduced, perhaps via a sea route into the fishery port, likely from Indonesian or other fishing boats that have brought fish into the port," he said.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday that the variant was "genetically different from the Delta variant that infected Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport".

Prof Mak said that it is very challenging to maintain safe distancing, and safe management measures, due to the hot and humid environment at the port, and the strenuous nature of activities there. "Some mask-off activities and close interactions likely would have taken place between people there," he explained. "Fomite transmission, on contaminated services, and at the stalls, remains a strong possibility for transmission."

However, there is no evidence to suggest that transmission is occurring through contaminated fish. "We believe that the fish that we still consume and enjoy remain safe for consumption."

At least one possible link with KTV cluster

Prof Mak also shared that contact tracing and epidemiological investigations have identified potential nexus of activity shared across different clusters. For example, he said, "there has been at least one individual who worked at the Jurong Fishery Port who had frequented (a) KTV lounge within that individual's infectious period". However, it is not possible to verify whether that individual did transmit an infection.

Similarly, it's not possible to identify a specific super spreader leading to the large cluster that has emerged currently. "It's also not possible for us to identify a specific case, and to say that this was the case that led to transmission of infection from the boats to the fishery port, and from the port to wet markets across the island."

As of Monday, there are 193 cases in the KTV lounges/clubs cluster and 179 cases in the Jurong Fishery Port/Hong Lim Market & Food Centre cluster.

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