SINGAPORE — Four additional cases of the novel coronavirus, including a six-month-old Singaporean baby boy, were confirmed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (5 February), bringing the tally to 28.
This makes Singapore the country with the second-highest number of confirmed cases outside mainland China, behind Japan.
Three of the new cases, all of whom have not recently travelled to China, are linked to the country’s first batch of local transmission announced on Tuesday, while the fourth one is a Chinese tourist from Wuhan. All four cases are stable.
The baby – currently the youngest confirmed case here – and a 45-year-old Singaporean man is, respectively, the son and husband of a 28-year-old female Singapore permanent resident who works at Yong Thai Heng, a health products shop in Cavan Road popular with Chinese tourists.
She and her colleague, a 48-year-old Singaporean woman, were among four cases of local transmission announced by the MOH on Tuesday, including a 32-year-old Singaporean tour guide who brought Chinese tourist groups to the shop.
The trio had close contact with a group of travellers from Guangxi, of whom at least two have been confirmed to be infected with the virus, also known as 2019-nCoV. The fourth case confirmed on Tuesday was the 28-year-old woman's Indonesian foreign domestic maid.
Her husband tested positive for the virus on Wednesday at about 2pm and is currently warded in an isolation room at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
The infant tested positive for the virus on the same day and is currently warded in an isolation room at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
The MOH said the six-month-old baby was cared for at home and was not in any infant care facility before he was hospitalised.
Tour guide’s family member infected
A 40-year-old Singaporean man, the husband of the tour guide, was also among the new cases announced on Wednesday.
He reported that he developed a fever on 24 January and visited Hougang Polyclinic with his wife last Thursday. She also visited a supermarket near their home at Buangkok Green.
Subsequently, the man visited the NCID on Monday, where he was immediately isolated and is currently warded. He tested positive for the virus the next day at around 8pm.
Prior to his hospital admission, the Singaporean stayed at his home and worked at Diamond Industries Jewellery Company at Harbour Drive which was visited by the same tour group from Guangxi.
He indicated that he had visited Pasir Panjang Hawker Centre and had travelled by public transport.
“The risk of infection from transient contact, such as on public transport or in public places, is assessed to be low,” said the ministry.
Daughter of previous case infected
The fourth case confirmed on Wednesday is a 42-year-old female Chinese national who arrived in Singapore from Wuhan on 21 January, and the daughter of a previously confirmed case.
As she was showed symptoms, she was conveyed by ambulance to the NCID on the same day as her 73-year-old mother, also a Chinese national, and immediately isolated.
She later tested positive for the virus on Tuesday at about 8pm and is currently warded in an isolation room at the NCID.
The health ministry reiterated that there is no evidence of widespread community transmission of the novel coronavirus in Singapore. It also called on Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei province, home to Wuhan, and all non-essential travel to mainland China.
Itinerary of Guangxi tour group; business meeting at Grand Hyatt
Separately, the ministry provided more details on the movements of the group of 20 tourists from Guangxi. They were in Singapore from 22 to 23 January, re-entered Singapore from Malaysia at 3am on 27 January and departed Changi Airport at 6am.
Besides Yong Thai Hang and Diamond Industries Jewellery Company, the tour group also visited Meeting You Restaurant at 14 Hamilton Road, Royal Dragon Restaurant at 2 Havelock Road, T Galleria by DFS at 25 Scotts Road and D’Resort @ Downtown East at 1 Pasir Ris Close.
“It has been almost 14 days since the tourists visited these places. We have reached out to 142 contacts, and all but one are well. The person has been isolated as a suspect case and test results are pending,” said the MOH.
The ministry added that they have conducted contact tracing of the crew and passengers of the departing flight on 27 January.
Five are still in Singapore and they have been quarantined.
Separately, the ministry also gave details of three cases in Malaysia and South Korea, which were confirmed on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. All three had attended a private business meeting involving 109 participants from the same company at Grand Hyatt Singapore from 20 to 22 January.
All 94 overseas participants have left Singapore and the ministry said it has informed the relevant overseas health authorities.
Of the 15 Singapore residents, 11 are well and four have reported symptoms and have been referred to the NCID for assessment.
Update on remaining cases
The ministry added that of the remaining 23 cases – one has since been discharged –, most are stable or improving, except for one patient who requires additional oxygen support but is not in the intensive care unit.
As of 12pm on Wednesday, 295 of the suspect cases have tested negative for the virus. Test results for the remaining 62 cases are pending.
The MOH said it has initiated epidemiological investigations and contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact with the cases and the process is ongoing.
As of 12pm on Wednesday, the ministry has identified 379 close contacts. Of the 304 who are still in Singapore, 299 have been contacted and are being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are ongoing to contact the remaining five close contacts.
Once identified, the MOH will closely monitor all close contacts.
As a precautionary measure, they will be quarantined for 14 days from their last exposure to the patient. In addition, all other identified contacts who have a low risk of being infected will be under active surveillance, and will be contacted daily to monitor their health status.
524 individuals quarantined
In Parliament on Monday, co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development, said that a total of 524 individuals are currently quarantined in Singapore. Of that figure, 222 are being housed in government quarantine facilities, with the remaining at home.
The minister also revealed that since last Saturday, more than 200,000 face mask packs – or 15 per cent of the total amount due for distribution – have been given out by the government.
The decision to release masks directly from the national stockpile – built up over the years thanks to crises like the SARS epidemic – to the general public was taken due to a “rapid consumption rate” by the public, he added.
Same family of coronaviruses as SARS
The novel 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.
On Wednesday, China's death toll from the epidemic soared past 490, exceeding the 349 mainland fatalities from the SARS outbreak.
The coronavirus has also spread to 27 territories beyond mainland China, sickening over 24,000 people worldwide. Two territories – Hong Kong and the Philippines – have each reported the death of a patient from the virus.
The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the new virus last week, after initially downplaying the threat posed by the disease.
The new strain 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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