Covid-19: Singapore registers nine more cases, six linked to Grace Assembly of God cluster

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). — TODAY pic
The National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Feb 14 — Nine more confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection have emerged in Singapore, with six of these linked to the Grace Assembly of God cluster, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.

A total of 67 people have been infected with the Covid-19 virus in Singapore so far, 13 of whom are linked to the church, making it the biggest cluster here.

The MOH also said today that two more patients have been discharged from hospital and are well, while another six remain in the intensive care unit and are critically ill. So far, 17 patients have now been discharged.

An employee of national water agency PUB is among the new cases.

PUB said in a statement today that one of its employees tested positive for Covid-19. The infected employee is an administrative staff who works in the Environment Building, and is not involved in PUB’s plant or field operations, the agency said.

To facilitate immediate and thorough cleaning and disinfection of the office space, all 70 employees on the affected level in the Environment Building were asked to leave their workstations and telecommute for the rest of the day today, it added.

“There was no evacuation of the Environment building. The affected office space, as well as common areas such as lifts, pantry and toilets are now being cleaned and disinfected in accordance with National Environment Agency guidelines. Staff are expected to return to work on Monday as usual.”

Approach may change as govt learns more about Covid-19

Speaking at a media briefing today, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong noted that while Covid-19 is not a mild illness, it is “certainly not at the severity of (severe acute respiratory syndrome) SARS”, as the mortality rate of Covid-19 is much lower than that of SARS.

SARS killed about 10 per cent of those infected, while experts believe the mortality rate for Covid-19 is about two per cent, based on preliminary estimates.

However, Covid-19 is more infectious than SARS, with a transmission pattern that is similar to that of H1N1, he said. H1N1, also known as swine flu, struck in 2009.

“It is less severe and more infectious than SARS. It is different from SARS. Because of the higher degree of transmission, various experts have also projected that disease may spread at a faster rate, closer to that of H1N1,” he said.

Wong noted that in Singapore alone, over 400,000 people were infected with H1N1 in the span of less than a year.

“We’re not saying this will happen with Covid-19. It’s a different disease from H1N1 but because the transmission pattern is similar to H1N1, we should be prepared for a wider pattern of transmission,” he said.

At this stage there has been no widespread community transmission of the virus in Singapore or any country other than China, Wong added.

But he said that this is a fast-changing situation, and the Republic will review its risk assessment of Covid-19 as it receives new information on the virus each day.

For example, if there is widespread transmission but evidence grows that most cases of Covid-19 are mild, Singapore might move to a new approach of dealing with the virus, he said.

“If indeed there is widespread community transmission but if 80 per cent are mild cases, as is the case today, we are unlikely to continue contact tracing every single individual — there are just so many to contact trace. We will move away from that strategy,” he said.

“Instead, we will look at patients who come forward and the majority, who have mild symptoms, can see the GP, take necessary precautions, rest at home and recover in due course. And the ones who are severe, maybe 20 per cent or hopefully a smaller percentage, then they will need more specialised treatment and they should go to the hospital. And among this group an even smaller percentage may need more acute care.”

This would be similar to the way Singapore deals with H1N1 influenza, Wong said.

But he added: “We are not saying we are there yet. This is not our strategy today. Our strategy today is still to deal with the spread of the virus, which is the strategy that most countries are adopting.” — TODAY

Related Articles