62 suspected Mers cases tested negative

A total of 62 suspected cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV) have been investigated in Singapore this year, as of last Friday.

All tested negative for the virus, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told the House yesterday, in response to questions from Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Nominated MP Randolph Tan.

Mr Gan said an Inter-Ministerial Committee was formed late last year to "oversee whole-of-government preparedness against dangerous infectious diseases, including Mers and Ebola". He chairs the committee with Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.

In spite of the preventive measures that have been put in place, Mr Gan urged the public to remain vigilant against the threat of infectious diseases as "it is something that we need to learn to live with", with greater global connectivity.

"We're going to see that there are in fact different forms of infectious diseases that will threaten Singapore from time to time," he said. Singapore was hit by an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, and is now on guard against Mers and Ebola.

Mr Gan said the threat of bird flu is "not totally eliminated either".

Mers has killed 36 people in South Korea since an outbreak began on May 20.

Mr Gan assured members that measures have been put in place to detect imported Mers cases and contain their transmission. First line of defence measures include temperature screening at the airport, heightened awareness among healthcare workers of symptoms, and public education efforts.

"However, it is a matter of time that the contagion will reach our shores," he said, adding that government agencies have contingency response plans in place should there be an imported case.

Should there be confirmed cases, patients will be treated in "negative-pressure isolation rooms" where healthcare workers will be decked in protective gear.

An exercise was conducted at Changi Airport recently to simulate the transfer of a "suspect case of Ebola" to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in a portable medical isolation unit. The People's Association also recently launched a nationwide programme to train grassroots leaders on preventive measures to handle Mers, so that they can share the knowledge with residents.

Mr Gan urged the public to play their part by keeping up to date with the Government's advisories and exercising personal responsibility and good hygiene practices.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline '62 suspected Mers cases tested negative'. Print Edition | Subscribe