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Singapore reports 23 new COVID-19 cases, including 2 in the community

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SINGAPORE: A total of 23 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Singapore as of noon on Friday (Jan 8), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in its preliminary daily update.

Two are locally transmitted cases in the community and had been placed on quarantine earlier, said the ministry, adding that no new infections were found in foreign workers’ dormitories. 

Both community cases are linked to previously confirmed COVID-19 cases.

One is a 34-year-old Singaporean man who works as a harbour pilot at PSA Marine. His work entails going onboard vessels to navigate them through congested waters. The man, known as Case 59079, had tested negative for COVID-19 during earlier rostered routine testing, the last being on Dec 28.

MOH said he had been identified as a close contact of Case 58817, who also worked as a harbour pilot, and was placed on quarantine on Jan 1 at a quarantine facility. 

His swab done on Jan 3 was negative for COVID-19. Another test taken on Jan 7 came back positive for COVID-19 infection and he was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in an ambulance. He developed onset of symptoms on Jan 8 and his serological test result is pending.

The other community case is a 20-year-old Singaporean man who works at Azur at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. The man, known as Case 59084, delivered pre-packed meals to air crew members and hotel guests. He does not interact with diners at Azur, said the health ministry.

His earlier tests from rostered routine testing, the last being on Jan 1, were negative for COVID-19 infection.

He had been identified as a close contact of Case 59028, who also worked at Azur, and was placed on quarantine on Jan 5 at a quarantine facility. He developed acute respiratory infection symptoms on Jan 7, and was swabbed on the same day. His test came back positive for COVID-19 infection and he was taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in an ambulance. 

His serological test result has come back negative, indicating that this is likely a current infection. He has also tested preliminarily positive for the B117 strain, and is pending further confirmatory tests, said MOH. 

He is the second reported local case who tested preliminarily positive for the B117 strain of COVID-19.​​​​​​​

On Wednesday, MOH said a 24-year-old work permit holder from South Korea who also worked at Azur preliminarily tested positive for the B117 strain and is pending further confirmatory tests.

On Dec 24, MOH said a 17-year-old woman who had been studying in the UK from August had returned to Singapore on Dec 6 and tested positive for the B117 strain. 

A Singapore Airlines pilot also preliminarily tested positive for the B117 strain, MOH had said on Dec 30.

Eleven others have also preliminarily tested positive for the same strain. A total of 15 people have now preliminary tested positive for the B117 strain in Singapore.

The health ministry said it is investigating the total of three cases who work at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. Based on preliminary investigations, MOH said it cannot exclude that transmissions could have occurred at the hotel. 

MOH added that it has begun a special testing operation to test 234 staff members working at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. 

So far, 233 hotel staff members have been swabbed. Of these, 129 test results have been processed, and all of them have come back negative for COVID-19 infection while 104 test results are pending. Testing is being facilitated for the remaining staff members, said MOH.

4 FOREIGN DOMESTIC WORKERS AMONG IMPORTED CASES

The remaining 21 cases are imported infections, all of whom were placed on stay-home notice upon arrival in Singapore.

Among them are four Singaporeans and four permanent residents who returned from India, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

Eight are work permit holders who arrived from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Four of them are foreign domestic workers. 

There is one dependant’s pass holder who arrived from the UAE as well as a student’s pass holder and two work pass holders who arrived from India.

The remaining imported case is a short-term visit pass holder who arrived from India to visit her spouse who is a Singapore permanent resident. 

MOH also added two new locations to its list of places visited by COVID-19 cases during their infectious period – Tampines Mall as well as Gochi-So Shokudo at Tampines 1. 

18 MORE PATIENTS DISCHARGED

MOH said the number of new cases in the community has decreased from 10 cases in the week before to eight cases in the past week. 

The number of unlinked cases in the community has increased from four cases in the week before to five cases in the past week. 

Eighteen more cases have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities, bringing Singapore’s total recoveries to 58,580.

There are 61 cases still in hospital. Most of them are stable or improving, and one is in the intensive care unit. Another 166 are being isolated and cared for at community facilities.

Individuals who choose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine may need to go through “more frequent testing”, said Mr Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force in an interview with CNA.

Mr Wong, who is also Education Minister, spoke of “tangible benefits” for those who choose to get vaccine shots.

“It may well be, if the data validates all the hypotheses, that transmission risk can be significantly reduced. It may well be that travellers coming back need not serve SHN (stay-home notice) or will serve a shorter SHN,” said Mr Wong in an interview with CNA’s Talking Point which was broadcast on Thursday.

“So those will be the benefits of getting a vaccination besides the fact that you are protecting yourself and your loved ones.”

While many hope to return to a pre-pandemic normal, Mr Wong said that even in a post-coronavirus world, there would be pandemics with more virulent diseases that arise in the future. 

“I think rather than thinking about let’s go back to life before COVID, I think we should be thinking now about what are the things that we have done during this period that really ought to be permanently part of our new daily routines,” he added.

As of Friday, Singapore has reported a total of 58,836 COVID-19 cases. 

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