No evidence that coronavirus can be spread through aerosol transmission: MOH
Expert in China cites lack of evidence of aerosol transmission as virus does not stay in the air for long
There is no evidence the coronavirus could be airborne. If it could be spread through the air, it would be a disastrous setback in attempts to control the outbreak.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday evening that it had looked into reports that the virus, which originated in Wuhan, could be spread through aerosol transmission.
"Based on evidence available in China, an expert from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has said that there is currently no evidence the virus can be transmitted through aerosol," MOH said.
It added that the known transmission routes of the virus so far are via respiratory droplets and physical contact.
Last Saturday, a Shanghai official announced the virus could now be transmitted via aerosol - meaning the virus can drift through the air for extended periods and infect people through their breath.
Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau deputy head Zeng Qun was quoted by China Daily as saying: "Aerosol transmission refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which causes infection after inhalation."
But the disease expert Feng Luzhao refuted that by noting that the coronavirus does not stay suspended or float in the air for a long time.
The coronavirus outbreak has killed at least 900 people and infected more than 40,000 in China.
MOH has announced two more infections, a 37-year-old Singaporean man and a two-year-old Singaporean girl, bringing the total number of confirmed cases here to 45.
Earlier, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary said he was aware of speculation on WhatsApp that the virus is airborne.
After his dialogue session with taxi and private-hire drivers, he told reporters: "I want to point out that even though some other media outlets have repeated this, China itself has made an announcement that the novel coronavirus is not airborne and that they are operating on the principle that it is droplet-spread."
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, also told The New Paper that there is no clear evidence the virus is airborne.
"If the virus is airborne, the results would be disastrous by now.
"It will be like poison gas, and all masks, even the N95 masks, may not be able to (protect us). If that happens, then we may even need protective suits," he said.
Current evidence to show that the virus is airborne is not convincing, he added.
Dr Chia also addressed concerns over how several locally infected patients had consulted general practitioners more than once before they were admitted to hospital.
"When a patient with flu-like symptoms present themselves to the doctor, their risk profile will be assessed - their travel history, if they have been identified as a close contact, and if they are on leave of absence," he said.
Those with a high-risk profile or with a chest infection will be sent to the hospital.
Those with mild symptoms may be sent home while waiting for a test result confirmation.
Dr Chia said: "It would not be practical to send everyone with flu to the hospital because it will overwhelm our hospitals, especially now with the flu season.
"If we test everyone, those at higher risk may have to wait longer for their results."
Urging Singaporeans to trust the GPs, he said: "They are at the front line and get updates from MOH every day.
"They know what to look out for."
Meanwhile, more precautionary measures were implemented in the Central Business District yesterday after Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition to orange last Friday.
Long queues were seen snaking out of Suntec City yesterday morning as workers waited for their turn to have their temperature taken.
A manager who wanted to be known only as Miss Lim said she waited for about 30 minutes.
She told TNP: "People around me were complaining. I was frustrated, but I was also worried because I was standing in close proximity with people.
"I understand the precautionary measures that had to be done, but they need to ensure it is done properly."
Miss Lim said there were only two stations serving about a hundred people in the queue.
Two circulars from building managements in the CBD were also distributed to tenants to inform them of a confirmed case each at the Marina Bay Financial Centre and the Clifford Centre, Bloomberg reported.
FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES