Singapore is racing to contain a new coronavirus outbreak after a sudden increase in cases among the city’s army of migrant workers, underlining the challenge of returning to normality even for countries that had seemed to have brought infections under control.
The city-state, which won plaudits for its swift response to the Covid-19 outbreak at the beginning of the year, has announced a near total lockdown after reporting a surge in new cases over the past few days. Total infections have jumped more than 60 per cent in the past week to 1,623, including 120 on Sunday and 142 on Wednesday, a record for a single day for Singapore. However, Singapore’s role model of dealing with Covid-19 has been taken over by New Zealand which has caught the public’s eyes when handling the situation.
Singapore’s Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong has mentioned that there is an increase in cluster cases in Singapore.
Singapore was quick to use stringent travel restrictions, contact tracing and other measures to slow the spread of the disease and for a time appeared to have brought it under control. But the international financial centres are facing a sharp rise in cases, forcing the country to implement this week the toughest distancing measures yet.
The 2nd Wave
This second wave began around March 10, according to a breakdown of the Singapore health ministry’s daily Covid-19 announcements. And just like in the first phase, between January 23 and March 09, the worry is that the growing number of imported cases will trigger an even bigger spike in local transmission of Covid-19.
There were 732 confirmed cases (415 imported, 317 local) announced by the Singapore authorities between January 23 and March 27.
March 10 was when the number of imported cases began overtaking the locally transmitted ones — slowly at first, followed by a dramatic surge as seen in the chart below.
The first imported case that did not have a China connection— Patient 113 — was confirmed only on March 04, almost six weeks after Singapore reported its first Covid-19 case on January 23.
Patient 113, a 42-year-old French national who had travelled to France, Portugal, Turkey, and the UK, was a sign of things to come even as local cases continued to surpass imported ones for another six days.
On March 10, the number of imported cases took a slight lead over local cases (four imported cases versus three local ones) for the first time in weeks. A week later on March 17, the number of imported cases spiked to 31. And a week after this on March 24, 47 imported cases were confirmed, the highest one-day record for such cases so far.
The imported Covid-19 cases in this second wave were mostly from the UK and the US, in sharp contrast with the China-linked imported cases in the first phase of the outbreak.
There has been a corresponding increase in the number of locally transmitted cases as well in the second phase of the outbreak. Locally transmitted cases in fact hit a current record high of 31 positive tests on March 24, the same day that confirmation of new imported cases also hit a record high.
The 3rd Wave
The number of Singapore’s locally transmitted infections has more than doubled in the past fortnight following a wave of imported infections. They include new clusters at foreign worker dormitories, in which thousands of migrants live in often crowded rooms.
Authorities on Sunday put two of these dormitories housing 19,800 people in isolation for two weeks, during which time workers would not be able to leave their rooms. In the past three days, cases linked to foreign worker dormitories accounted for 35 per cent of newly reported patients.
The biggest local cluster so far is the SAFRA Jurong cluster, involving 47 confirmed cases who are connected in various ways to a dinner function on February 15. Many participants at the function had common social circles and took part in joint activities that likely worsened the spread of the virus
On 7 April, Singapore passed a bill banning social gatherings of any to combat the 3rd wave. Tuition centres are closed to prevent students from gathering, people who do not obey the 1-metre distance rule will be fined.
For the first time ever, Singapore announces the closure of schools from 8 April onwards. Students are to remain at home to carry out home-based learning.
Businesses which are deemed unessential are closed. It has also been a requirement for those who are able to work without being in the office to work-from-home.
Offenders will face fines of up to S$10,000 and/or a maximum jail sentence of six months in the first instance and double that for subsequent offences.
The spike in local cases from March 24 onwards is due to the emergence of at least three new clusters around the same time:
- The PCF Fengshan cluster (26 cases and counting); the first case emerged on March 23.
- The Dover Court International School cluster (at least 8 cases); the first case emerged on March 24
- The SingPost Centre cluster (at least 5 cases); the first case emerged on March 24
We urge Singapore citizens to practise social distancing and encourage the frequent hand sanitisers to ensure the safety of not only individuals but the safety of family members as well.
Avoid unnecessary gatherings to prevent further cluster cases. Singaporeans should stay at home and only go out when necessary such as groceries (remember to not hoard and maintain 1-metre apart) and meals (remember to takeaway or choose food delivery).
As mentioned by our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong “ It will be a long fight. But if any country can see this through, it is Singapore.” Let us work together as Singaporeans to tide over this situation.