SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed three more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore on Thursday (30 January), bringing the total tally in the Republic to 13.
All 13 confirmed cases are Chinese nationals, of whom at least 11 are residents of Wuhan, where the virus originated.
This makes Singapore the second country with the highest number of confirmed cases outside mainland China, behind Thailand. The novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, has spread to 21 territories beyond mainland China, sickening over 8,000 people and claiming the lives of 170.
In Singapore, the 11th case – a 31-year-old female Wuhan resident – had arrived in the country on 22 January and was a travelling companion of the fourth confirmed case, said the MOH.
The 31-year-old had reported that she was asymptomatic during her flight to Singapore, but was been quarantined from 26 January as she was identified as a close contact of the fourth confirmed case.
On Monday, she developed symptoms of the novel coronavirus and was admitted to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). She was confirmed to be infected with the virus on Wednesday at about 11pm.
The 12th case is a 37-year-old female Wuhan resident who had arrived in Singapore with her family on 22 January. Like the 11th case, she reported that she was asymptomatic during her flight to Singapore but subsequently developed symptoms on 26 January.
She took a taxi to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Wednesday – she was later classified as a suspect case and immediately isolated at the NCID. She was confirmed to be infected with the virus on Wednesday at about 11pm.
Prior to her hospital admission, the 37-year-old stayed at the Village Hotel Sentosa, the Hotel 81 Princess at 21 Lorong 12 Geylang and the Home Suite View Hotel at 12 Lorong 12 Geylang.
“She indicated that she had visited Orchard Road and Geylang, and had travelled by taxi. The risk of infection from public transport or in public places, is assessed to be low,” said the MOH.
The 13th case is a 73-year-old female Chinese national who arrived in Singapore from Wuhan with her family on 21 January. She was tested positive for the virus on Thursday at about 2pm.
The MOH has started contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact with the cases, added the ministry.
All three new cases are currently in stable condition and warded in isolation rooms at the NCID.
The ministry also updated on the condition of the 10 previously announced cases. It said that all of them are not critically ill and remain in stable condition, with most improving.
Apart from the 13 confirmed cases, 164 of the suspect cases have tested negative for the coronavirus as of 12pm on Thursday, while test results for the remaining 49 cases are pending.
The MOH said that contact tracing for the confirmed cases is ongoing and as of 12pm on Thursday, it has identified 170 close contacts.
“Of the 139 (close contacts) who are still in Singapore, 135 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining four close contacts,” added the ministry.
The news follows the announcement on Tuesday of a travel ban for new visitors with recent travel history to Hubei within the last 14 days, which took effect from noon on Wednesday. Such individuals will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore
This also applies to those with Chinese passports issued in Hubei. For such travellers, there is a suspension on issuance of all new visas, previously-issued short-term and multiple-visit visas, and visa-free transit facilities. The ban applies to land, sea and air travel.
The passengers who are affected by the ban and arrive in the Republic will be turned away, with their visas suspended. They will then have to make their own arrangements to fly out of Singapore.
Affected passengers who give false or inaccurate information in their travel history may be subject to penalties under the Infectious Diseases Act. A person who is convicted under the Act could be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000.
MOH has already started contract tracing for recent travellers to Hubei who are already in Singapore. There are an estimated 2,000 of them, with about 1,000 on short-term visas. Should they be assessed to be of high risk, they will be quarantined.
Returning Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with travel history to Hubei in the last 14 days will be quarantined, as will returning permanent residents and long-term pass holders with Chinese passports issued in Hubei.
On Thursday, 92 Singaporeans arrived home safely from Wuhan via Scoot flight TR121.
Separately, the MOH has advised Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei province, home to Wuhan, and all non-essential travel to mainland China.
The new strain belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-2003 outbreak and also started in China.
It likely originated from Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market, where live animals or products – such as foxes, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, porcupines, and camel meat – are sold.
Patients suffering from the new strain may exhibit fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness – such as coughing or difficulty in breathing –, as well as pneumonia-like symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, and headache.
However, some who have died from it have not displayed symptoms of fever according to details released by China’s National Health Commission, potentially complicating global efforts to check for infected travellers as they arrive at airports and other travel hubs.
This means that temperature screening, the most common measure being used at transport links and airports to check travellers, may not identify some infected people.
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