Sars: 10 years on

Sars in Singapore: Timeline

This was first published in The Straits Times on March 15, 2013

March 1, 2003: Patient No. 1 is admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for suspected pneumonia. She and two other women fell ill after visiting Hong Kong.

March 12: The World Health Organisation issues global alert on outbreaks of severe form of atypical pneumonia in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Guangdong.

March 15: The term Sars is coined. Singapore has 16 cases. The Ministry of Health (MOH) forms the Sars task force.

March 16: MOH issues hospital guidelines to screen emergency department patients for fever and travel history to Sars-affected areas. It issues infection-control guidelines.

March 22: TTSH is designated the Sars hospital. The Sars hotline is set up. The number of cases rises to 44.

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March 24: The Infectious Diseases Act is invoked. About 740 people are home-quarantined for 10 days.

March 25: Singapore experiences its first Sars death - Patient No. 1's father.

March 26: A pastor who visited Patient No. 1 becomes the second person to die of Sars.

March 27: All schools are shut till April 6. Those who die of Sars must be cremated within 24 hours.

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March 29: Temperature checks are introduced for all passengers entering Singapore through Changi Airport.

April 5: Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is hit by a Sars outbreak. The closure of schools is extended.

April 6: A ministerial committee is formed.

April 7: TTSH doctor Ong Hok Su becomes the first hospital worker to die from Sars. Patient No. 1's mother also dies.

April 9 to 16: Schools reopen.

April 22: Sars kills SGH vascular surgeon Alexandre Chao.

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May 11: Nurse Hamidah Ismail, one of the first nurses warded for Sars, dies on Mother's Day.

May 18: Last Sars patient detected.

May 30: WHO declares Singapore Sars-free.

July 16: Sars eradicated in Singapore.


What is severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars)

It is a severe form of pneumonia – an inflammation of the lungs due to an infection by Sars coronavirus, a strain first identified in 2003. The name Sars was coined by the World Health Organisation on March 15, 2003.

Number of cases reported

Between November 2002 and July 2003, a total of 8,096 cases were reported globally. In Singapore, 238 people were infected.

Number of lives claimed

Sars killed 774 people worldwide, including China (349 deaths), Hong Kong (299 deaths), Canada (43 deaths), Taiwan (37 deaths) and Singapore (33 deaths).

How Sars started

Bats were likely the original host of the virus.

Both bats and civet cats were harvested for their meat and served as delicacies in China.

How Sars is transmitted

People get infected when they come into close contact with the body fluid of an infected person.