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SINGAPORE — The slide back to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) was due to the Jurong Fishery Port COVID-19 cluster and not the KTV cluster, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (21 July).
In a post on his Facebook page, Ong said that as fishmongers and stall assistants went on to work at various markets around Singapore after being infected at the port, many more cases in the community were seeded.
“Markets are frequented by seniors, many of whom remain unvaccinated. This is most worrying, and we are at risk of an uncontrollable rise in cases, which could potentially result in many severe illnesses or even deaths,” Ong said. As such, the authorities had to tighten up social activities.
Singapore is moving back to Phase 2 (HA) from Thursday to 18 August. Among the tightened safe management measures are no dine-in at food and beverage (F&B) establishments, a reduction in group sizes for social gatherings from a maximum of five persons to two persons, and a cap of two distinct visitors per household per day.
“Like everyone, I am upset with the irresponsible behaviour of people in the KTV cluster, but it is not the reason for the reversion to Phase 2(HA),” Ong said. The co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) on COVID-19 said that the MTF thought they control the KTV cluster and decided to “keep F&B establishments open with the 2/5 pax rule, i.e. allow five pax if all are fully vaccinated”.
The number of cases from this cluster has come down over the past few days, Ong said.
As of Wednesday, the Jurong Fishery Port/Hong Lim Market & Food Centre cluster – the largest cluster reported in Singapore's community since the start of the pandemic – has 451 COVID-19 cases, while the KTV cluster is the second largest with 215 cases.
On the suspension of dine-in at restaurants, Ong said some had asked him about the need for such a measure given that there have been no cases detected in those settings.
“Unfortunately it does not work like that. If 5 friends meet for dinner, each has 5 people at home, who in turn meet their friends in groups of 5, we have a network of 5x5x5=125 connections for the virus to work itself through. This will turbo charge the Jurong Fishery Port cluster further.”
One positive development is that 50 per cent of Singapore’s population has received two doses and while it is a good rate, it needs to go higher, Ong said. In two weeks' time, the level should be 64 per cent or more, and this will put Singapore in a “much stronger and resilient position” when the MTF reviews the Phase 2 (HA) rules.
Given the gravity of the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, the MTF felt it is not the time to risk it all now, Ong said.
“It’s a frustrating situation, but I hope with my explanation, we understand why the measures are necessary.”
The Ministry of Health confirmed 181 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore on Wednesday, taking the country's total case count to 63,621. Of the new cases, 179 are locally transmitted infections and two are imported.
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