5 weak links in Singapore's Covid-19 battle

Enforcement officers from the Singapore Food Agency speaking to a resident at the Toa Payoh West Market and Food Centre on April 15, 2020.
Enforcement officers from the Singapore Food Agency speaking to a resident at the Toa Payoh West Market and Food Centre on April 15, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - While the number of new coronavirus cases daily has hit new highs in Singapore, with 728 announced on Thursday (April 16), the number of new cases in the community has decreased from an average of 38 cases a day in the week before to an average of 37 cases a day in the last week.

There were 48 new cases in the community on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

However, just as the case numbers in dormitories have exposed a weak link that could push Singapore's Covid-19 situation into a critical state, other weak links remain, and these could seed a large cluster unless everyone is vigilant, experts have cautioned.

Here are the five weak links that Singapore faces in its fight against the pandemic.

1. FOREIGN WORKER DORMITORIES


The S11 Dormitory @ Punggol is Singapore's biggest cluster. PHOTO: ST FILE

The high density of people living in close proximity and sharing living and sleeping spaces means that infections can spread very quickly, as seen in the big spike in infections in the dorms.

• 19 out of 43 purpose-built dorms are known clusters, with more than 2,000 cases.

• 12 out of these 19 clusters have been declared isolation areas, which means that all the workers will be quarantined in their rooms for 14 days.

• Largest dorm cluster is S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, with 979 cases as of Thursday.

2. OLD FOLKS’ HOMES


Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home has seen 16 cases and two deaths. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Seniors are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill when they become infected with the virus. All 10 patients who have died were above 60 years old.

Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home is a cluster, with 16 cases and two deaths, both 86-year-old female residents, linked to it.

Vanguard Healthcare’s Woodlands Care Home has one case and no deaths.

• Pacific Healthcare Nursing Home at 21 Senja Road has one new case as of Thursday.

3. THOSE WHO FLOUT THE RULES


Joggers at Bedok Reservoir Park on April 15, 2020. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Groups of people spending hours in close contact can become “super spreader” events leading to multiple infections, as seen in the Safra Jurong dinner cluster, which has 47 cases linked to it.

• Social contact should be confined to immediate family members living in the same household.

 
 

• People should also avoid social gatherings in and outside of the home, such as inviting family members who do not live with them for meals, and meeting friends in the park.

• To reduce the risk of infection, people should stay home as much as possible.

• People who leave home unnecessarily or refuse to wear a mask when they are out pose a huge risk to public health, experts said. This is especially if they are asymptomatic or suffer very mild symptoms. They could spread the virus to others.

• Every day, 3,000 enforcement officers and SG Clean and safe distancing ambassadors are deployed to ensure people comply with the circuit breaker measures. Over 6,200 warnings and more than 1,000 fines have been issued since April 7, when the enhanced safe distancing measures kicked in.

4. CHILDCARE CENTRES AND PRE-SCHOOLS


A town council worker cleaning outside PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Fengshan on March 24, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

While worldwide infection rates for children are generally low, many children are asymptomatic carriers of the virus and may unknowingly infect the seniors in their households.

 
 

• There were 30 cases from two clusters, and 10 separate cases at 10 centres, including staff, children at the centres and family members.

• In total, eight children and 32 adults have been infected.  

• The biggest cluster was at Sparkletots centre at Fengshan Block 126 with 27 cases, where 23 were adults and four were children.

• Since April 8, childcare centres and pre-schools have suspended general services as part of safe distancing measures to limit the local transmission of Covid-19.

Limited services are provided to parents who are working in essential services and are unable to find alternative care arrangements.

• An Early Childhood Development Agency spokesman said that about 10,000 children are tapping the limited service at more than 1,200 pre-schools during the circuit breaker period, which is approximately 5 per cent of all children enrolled in pre-schools. Some children may require the service only on certain days or periods.

5. WORKPLACES


People wearing face masks walking past commercial buildings in Raffles Place. PHOTO: AFP

About 20 per cent of the workforce continues to go to work, as they are deemed to be workers performing essential services.  

• The Government is looking to trim the number of companies deemed to be in essential services so that more people can stay at home, to curb the spread of the virus.

• Workplaces that are allowed to open for business should take precautions such as asking employees to stagger their work hours, wear masks and eat separately.

TEXT: REI KUROHI, TIMOTHY GOH, CLARA CHONG, LIM MIN ZHANG, CHERYL TAN