Case 138: MOH clarifies about man who tested positive for COVID-19 after ending quarantine

MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak speaking at the multi-ministry taskforce press conference on 10 March, 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)
MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak speaking at the multi-ministry taskforce press conference on 10 March, 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

By Wong Casandra and Amir Hussain

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (10 March) cleared up some confusion regarding a case who had served a three-week quarantine and tested positive after he was allowed to leave home.

The 26-year-old Singaporean man, confirmed by the ministry on Saturday as case 138, was quarantined from 15 February to 6 March.

He tested positive for the virus on the afternoon of 6 March but had left home following the end of his quarantine to visit SAFRA Punggol at 9 Sentul Crescent.

The Rivervale Drive resident was later warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and discharged on Monday.

Responding to questions by media during a media conference led by a multi-ministry taskforce on the virus, MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak explained that close contacts of cases are quarantined for 14 days from the last point of contact with the infected person.

“Unfortunately, we have individuals who may have close contact with multiple confirmed cases,” said Prof Mak.

“For instance, we might have planned for a 14-day quarantine period but as a result of establishing subsequent linkages to other confirmed cases, the period of quarantine or isolation might then be extended.”

The man was identified as a close contact of case 66, a 28-year-old male Singaporean who is a Grace Assembly of God employee.

He was also identified as a family member of cases 83 and 91, a 54-year-old Singaporean man and a 58-year-old Singaporean woman, respectively, both linked to The Life Church and Missions Singapore.

The man, who has no recent travel history to affected countries and regions, was subjected to a specimen regime during his quarantine as part of epidemiological investigations.

“But technically, he was already released from quarantine – this was just basically a test,” said Prof Mak.

“I understand that subsequently, the individual celebrated his freedom by engaging in social activities that he was deprived of in the preceding three weeks.”

Unfortunately, the test came back positive and the man had to be recalled for further investigation, he added.

The man remains well and if his condition was otherwise, authorities would have picked up on his case much earlier during the quarantine period, Prof Mak noted.

“What we don’t know is in patients with very mild symptoms, how infectious (they) are. The danger is not remains to be an issue to be further investigated,” he added.

As a precaution, the authorities decided to isolate the man again, following his three-week quarantine, and treat him as a confirmed case.

“As a result of his going out and spending some time in social activities for that particular day, we would as a routine continue contact tracing for him,” said Prof Mak.

To date, Singapore has confirmed 166 cases of the virus, while 93 have fully recovered and have been discharged. Twelve are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

As of Tuesday noon, the MOH has identified 4,004 close contacts who have been quarantined. Of these, 872 are currently quarantined, and 3,132 have completed their quarantine.

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