SINGAPORE: A total of 30 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Singapore as of noon on Thursday (Dec 31), including five community cases.
This is the largest number of community infections reported since Aug 30, when there were eight such cases.
The five community cases reported on Thursday formed two new clusters, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
NEW CLUSTER LINKED TO MARINE SURVEYOR
One of the clusters is linked to the marine surveyor at Lloyd’s Register Singapore whose case was reported on Wednesday. The 46-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec 29.
Following his infection, two family members who live in the same household tested positive for COVID-19. They are a 46-year-old woman who works as a freelance florist at her residence at Ghim Moh Road and a 14-year-old girl who is a student at Raffles Girls’ School.
Both were identified as close contacts of the marine surveyor and placed on home quarantine on Dec 30.
The woman developed symptoms on the same day and was taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) where she was swabbed. Her COVID-19 infection was confirmed the next day.
The girl was also taken to NCID on Dec 30.
“Her test result came back positive for COVID-19 infection on Dec 31, and she also started to develop symptoms on the same day,” said MOH, adding that her last day in school was on Dec 23.
All three cases are Singapore permanent residents.
NEW CLUSTER LINKED TO HARBOUR PILOT
The three remaining community cases reported on Thursday are a family cluster involving a 55-year-old harbour pilot who works at PSA Marine. His work involves going onboard vessels to navigate them through congested waters, said MOH.
His was asymptomatic and the infection was detected through rostered routine testing of workers in the construction, marine and process sectors on Dec 28.
The test came back positive on Dec 30 and he was taken to NCID.
His serological test result is negative, indicating that it is likely a current infection.
His earlier tests from rostered routine testing, the last being on Dec 12, had been negative for COVID-19 infection.
The man lives at Marine Crescent and often visited his relatives who stay in a neighbouring block, said MOH.
“It was revealed that on Dec 13, he had visited Parkway Parade with seven other individuals. Investigations are ongoing to assess if there had been any breach of the relevant prevailing safe management measures,” added the ministry.
Two of his relatives living at Marine Crescent have also tested positive for COVID-19. They are a 79-year-old Singaporean woman who is a retiree and a 50-year-old Singaporean man who is currently unemployed.
On Dec 28, both cases developed acute respiratory infection symptoms but did not seek medical treatment, said MOH.
On Dec 30, they were placed on quarantine after being identified as close contacts of the harbour pilot.
As they were already symptomatic, they were taken to NCID and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, said MOH.
“In the meantime, all the identified close contacts of the cases, including their family members and co-workers, have been isolated and placed on quarantine, and will be tested at the start and end of their quarantine period so that we can detect asymptomatic cases,” said MOH.
“We will also conduct serological tests for the close contacts to determine if the case could have been infected by them.”
ADDITIONAL MEASURES FOR MARINE SECTOR
Given the recent cases in the marine sector, the Health Ministry said it will start “special testing operations” to test individuals who boarded the ships that the harbour pilot and marine surveyor recently worked on.
Harbour pilots, marine surveyors and ship repair workers will also be tested in the coming days, regardless of their rostered routine testing schedule, said the ministry.
“In view of the recent cases involving the marine sector, we will review the need to tighten our precautionary measures for these workers,” it added.
The remaining 25 new cases were imported and were placed on stay-home notice or isolated upon their arrival in Singapore.
Five are Singaporeans and permanent residents who returned from the United Kingdom, Indonesia and India.
Fourteen are work permit holders who arrived from Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, India and Myanmar, of whom nine are foreign domestic workers.
One is a special pass holder who is a crew member of a ship from Hong Kong. He is a Philippine national with travel history to Japan.
“He had not disembarked from the ship until he was conveyed to a quarantine facility after being identified as a close contact of an overseas case,” said MOH.
There is also a short-term visit pass holder who arrived from India to visit her Singaporean spouse, as well as a dependant’s pass holder and a long-term visit pass holder from India.
The remaining imported cases are two work pass holders who arrived from the Philippines and India.
READ: Despite ‘exceptionally testing’ COVID-19 year, Singapore can see light at the end of the tunnel – PM Lee
ONE PATIENT IN CRITICAL CONDITION
There are 57 confirmed cases who remain in hospital, with one in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Another 38 COVID-19 cases have been discharged, bringing the total number of recoveries to 58,449.
As of Thursday, Singapore has reported a total of 58,599 COVID-19 cases, with 29 fatalities.
“The recent community cases are a stark reminder that we cannot afford to let our guard down, especially during this festive period when there are increased social interactions,” said MOH.
“We must remain disciplined in adhering to the safe management and safe distancing measures. Let us work together to avoid an uncontrolled resurgence of cases which could slow or even reverse our progress.”
Singapore began its COVID-19 vaccination exercise on Wednesday, with healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases the first to get the shots.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart. Those who receive the first dose on Wednesday are scheduled to return for their second dose on Jan 20 next year.
Vaccinations will subsequently be rolled out to more healthcare institutions.
This will be followed by vaccinations for the elderly – starting with those aged 70 years and above – from February. Thereafter, other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible for vaccinations can do so.
The vaccine will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents, including long-term work permit holders.
READ: Individuals encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to provide better protection at ‘community level’: Gan Kim Yong
MORE COVID-19 MEASURES FOR AIR CREW
Singapore on Wednesday also further tightened COVID-19 measures for air crew of Singapore carriers, including more frequent testing.
The move comes amid heightened risk of COVID-19 infection overseas given the resurgence observed in several parts of the world, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Wednesday.
Air crew who layover in “high-risk destinations” will be required to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on three occasions – upon arrival in Singapore, and on the third and seventh day following their return. Crew will also be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from their seventh-day PCR test.
Additionally, air crew on layover will be required to further minimise their contact with locals when they are overseas.