All staff at Four Leaves bakery in Ion Orchard quarantined after Covid-19 case found; outlet closed temporarily

The Four Leaves outlet in Ion Orchard on June 9, 2021.
The Four Leaves outlet in Ion Orchard on June 9, 2021.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - All staff at the Four Leaves outlet in Ion Orchard have been quarantined, and the outlet has been closed temporarily, after a retail assistant working there was confirmed as a Covid-19 case here on Tuesday (June 8).

The AMK Hub outlet where she was at for training in end-May has also been closed for a day for cleaning, and its staff will be swabbed as a precaution.

A professional disinfection company was engaged to conduct deep cleaning and disinfection at the Ion Orchard outlet on Monday, the bakery chain's senior manager, Mr Koji Tanabe, said in a statement on Wednesday.

He added that the outlet has been closed since Tuesday till further notice as a precautionary measure.

Mr Tanabe said that the employee had also been to the Four Leaves outlet in AMK Hub for training on May 23, after which she worked at the Ion outlet.

He said the Ministry of Health (MOH) had informed the company that there was no need to quarantine the AMK Hub outlet staff as more than 14 days had passed prior to the woman's positive test.

The staff will be placed under phone surveillance instead and may be swabbed if necessary.

Four Leaves decided to stop operations at its AMK Hub outlet on Wednesday and have the outlet deep-cleaned and disinfected, Mr Tanabe added.

"As an additional precautionary measure, we will also arrange for all AMK Hub staff to go for swab tests," he said.

MOH had said on Tuesday that the infected staff member is a 35-year-old Malaysian woman.

She developed a fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose last Saturday but did not seek medical treatment until Monday, when she visited a general practitioner.

She was immediately isolated when her antigen rapid test result came back positive for Covid-19. Her polymerase chain reaction test result also came back positive on the same day.

From the MOH statement, it appears that the woman had been working at the Ion Orchard outlet on June 3, 4, 5 and 6, as the location and dates appear under the ministry's list of public places that community cases have been to while infectious.

Dr Rayner Tan, postdoctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said that customers should not be worried about transmission via food as there is no evidence currently to suggest that the virus can be transmitted via food and food packaging.

 A sign at the Four Leaves outlet in Ion Orchard on June 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

"While Covid-19 may be transmitted through established pathways such as droplets or contaminated surfaces, the risk of transmission through contaminated surfaces on food and food packaging, if any, is dramatically reduced by existing food and beverage industry standards," he said.

Retail assistants and bakers are required to adhere to certain minimum standards of food safety when working at food retail outlets - such as covering displayed food items, regular hand-washing, cleaning of premises, proper use of gloves and, now amid the pandemic, mandatory wearing of masks, he said.

When asked about risk of transmission from a customer-facing role like a retail assistant, he said that the risk is much lower because the contact is transient. Additionally, food handlers also have to adhere to hygiene practices.

"Regardless, customers should monitor their health," said Dr Tan.

Professor Dale Fisher, an infectious diseases expert at the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said: "It would be virtually impossible to catch Covid-19 from a loaf of bread... Even if a small amount of virus did find its way onto the bread, it cannot be transmitted by eating it."

He added that if a customer is a contact of the retail assistant, he will be notified. But if not, he "should not worry".