KTV, Jurong Fishery Port COVID clusters linked: Ong Ye Kung

Club De Zara is one of nine KTV lounges, as of 15 July, 2021, ordered to close for two weeks due to the 'likely ongoing transmission' of COVID-19 at their premises. (PHOTO: Club De Zara 东门俱乐部/Facebook)
Club De Zara is one of nine KTV lounges, as of 15 July, 2021, ordered to close for two weeks due to the 'likely ongoing transmission' of COVID-19 at their premises. (PHOTO: Club De Zara 东门俱乐部/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — The two COVID-19 clusters at the KTV lounges – the largest community cluster reported in Singapore to date – and the Jurong Fishery Port are linked, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (19 July) in a Facebook post.

He did not specify how the clusters were linked but noted that ongoing phylogenetic studies conducted by scientists revealed that the cases in them "genetically differ from the Delta variant that infected Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport".

Rather, they are closer to what has been detected in imported cases from Indonesia, Ong added.

His statement comes a day after Singapore reported 88 local COVID-19 cases, the highest number of daily infections reported for this year. The addition brings the number of cases linked to the KTV and fishery port/Hong Lim Market clusters to 173 and 63, respectively.

"As we deal with these two big clusters, and test extensively, we should continue to expect many reported cases in the coming days, and must be prepared to make adjustments or even take decisive actions to suppress the cases," Ong said.

"One thing is clear – when countries in the region have big outbreaks, we are always at risk."

He added that when the Ministry of Health (MOH) will explain the findings to the public when it has more conclusive results from the ongoing studies.

Ong also described the KTV cluster as "settling now", with over 5,000 staff, hostesses, patrons having been tested for COVID-19 and the yield "trending down day by day".

"In other words, we are exhausting the uncovering of cases from our various rings of surveillance," he added.

Ringfencing the fishery port cluster

However, he pointed out that the fishery port cluster is "rising worryingly, because it is seeding cases in various markets, and the communities around them".

Ong spoke at length about the "four rings of defences" deployed for the cluster, calling the 700 workers, all quarantined, at the port the "first ring".

The "second ring" – over 861 fishmongers, delivery drivers, and others who had visited the port – has been issued health risk warnings, which require them to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and isolate themselves until they receive results. Testing for this group is more or less completed, Ong noted, with a "high number" of 26 COVID-19 cases detected among them.

The "third ring" comprises of other stallholders of all other markets, he added, who have been sent notifications to get themselves tested as a precaution.

The last ring of defence refer to residents around the market. "We advise the residents living around markets with positive cases to minimise your movements and social interactions. Do your marketing during off-peak hours. The National Environment Agency is setting up wastewater testing in as many locations as practicable, and the MOH will be mounting special operations in these estates," said Ong.

He reiterated his call for members of the public to get vaccinated against the virus, noting that vaccination here is gathering pace with up to 80,000 vaccinated per day for the past few weeks.

"Demand has flipped towards second doses, which now account for about 70 per cent of all doses. This means many more people are getting fully vaccinated. By end of today or tomorrow, we should reach 50 per cent of our population having two doses," Ong said.

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