New infections shoot up to record 728, most of them foreign workers
Foreign workers account for most of new cases, which MOH attributes to 'continued efforts to actively test and isolate' the infected
For the third time in four days, the Ministry of Health (MOH) recorded a new high for Covid-19 infections here, when it reported 728 cases in its daily update last night.
The total number of infections now stands at 4,427, with five new clusters emerging yesterday, all in foreign worker dormitories. Foreign workers continued to make up the vast majority of new infections, with around 93 per cent of cases.
Among the 680 new infections in the group, 654 were in dormitories, while 26 lived outside such facilities.
Two of the new clusters are in purpose-built dorms, while the remaining three are factory-converted dorms.
MOH said yesterday that the increase in new cases among foreign workers in dormitories was because of "continued efforts to actively test and isolate the infected workers".
There were 48 new local infections yesterday, and 81 per cent of the new cases were linked to known clusters. Contact tracing is ongoing for the remaining unlinked cases.
The first new cluster - The Leo dormitory at 23 Kaki Bukit Road 3 - had 21 previous cases linked to it yesterday. It was where Case 42, the 39-year-old Bangladeshi work pass holder, had stayed before he was confirmed infected on Feb 8.
The construction worker was transferred out of intensive care yesterday after spending over two months in a critical state, during which time his wife had given birth to their firstborn child in Bangladesh.
Another new cluster - the SJ Dormitory in Woodlands - had one case yesterday linked to six earlier ones.
The third new dormitory cluster is Westlite Mandai, now with 31 cases, while the fourth cluster is at 17 Sungei Kadut Street 4, now linked to six earlier cases.
The fifth cluster is Grandwork Building at 7 Sungei Kadut Street 3, with seven previous infections now linked to it.
There were new cases matched to existing clusters, with the largest one here, the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, linked to 181 new infections. It now has 979 cases in total.
Mandai Lodge I now has 161 cases, after 154 additional ones were linked to it yesterday. In a notice on the Government Gazette on Wednesday night, it was named as an isolation area.
There were no imported cases for the seventh day in a row, and two clusters were closed by MOH. They are Masjid Al-Muttaqin, which had three cases, and Church of Singapore, which had five cases.
They have not had new infections for the past two incubation periods, or 28 days.
MOH also gave an update on a case announced on Wednesday. The 41-year-old Singaporean woman is an administrative staff member at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
She had not gone to work since reporting onset of symptoms on April 10 and is warded at Sengkang General Hospital after being confirmed infected on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, another 31 patients were discharged yesterday, bringing the total number of people who have recovered to 683.
Of the 1,886 cases still in hospital, 23 are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
By the numbers
New cases in community
Total in hospital
In intensive care unit
Maintain measures to protect weak links: Experts
Local coronavirus cases in the community have remained stable over the past two weeks, a positive sign at a time when cases here are consistently hitting new highs with numbers soaring in worker dormitories.
While it is too early to say for sure, experts are optimistic the situation should continue to improve, particularly with circuit breaker measures in place and most people adhering to them.
"Sufficient time has passed for the majority of household transmissions, if any, to have occurred, as a result of people staying at home," Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health told The Straits Times.
While the number of new cases daily has seen new highs, those in the community have dipped from an average of 38 cases per day in the week before to an average of 37 a day in the last week.
But just as numbers in dormitories have exposed a weak link that could push the situation to a critical state, other weak links remain and these could seed a large cluster unless everyone is vigilant, Prof Teo warned.
Other weak links include old folks' homes,essential workers who are still out and about, and people who flout the safe distancing rules.
It is vital that people keep to physical distancing and practise good hygiene, he stressed.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, infectious diseases programme leader at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said quick intervention to create isolation zones at dorms and ring-fence these clusters could have averted disaster, an approach similar to how imported cases were reduced through travel restrictions and stay-home notices in government facilities instead of their homes.
NO NEW IMPORTED CASES
The country has seen no new imported cases since April 9.
Worker dorms and old folks' homes are the weakest links now, said infectious disease expert Annelies Wilder-Smith, a visiting professor at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.
"Foreign worker dorms facilitate rapid spread but fortunately those persons do not belong to the vulnerable group. However, the old, frail and sick in old folks' homes are highly vulnerable, and even little transmission could result in many deaths," she noted.
While enclosed settings such as dormitories exacerbate transmission, it may not spill over to the community, she added.
"All efforts now need to be taken to reduce the scale of the outbreak within such dormitories. Due to the size of the population of foreign workers, this is not going to be easy."
What Singapore has in its favour, even if clusters form, is a holistic approach to combating Covid-19, said Associate Professor Josip Car, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.
So even if a weak link breaks apart, it may not lead to uncontrollable spread.
With the virus likely to stay for the long haul, there will be no way to return to life as before, even if a vaccine is developed, Prof Car said.
"We must rethink how we start living, developing habits, new norms of behaviour consistent with measures that prevent the spread of the virus."