Coronavirus: 41-year-old infected Singaporean had lo hei lunch with colleagues; at least eight now quarantined

The man is now warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases in an isolation room.
The man is now warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases in an isolation room.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - On the day he developed symptoms of the coronavirus, a 41-year-old Singaporean with no apparent links to the previous infected cases nor travel history to China had a lo hei lunch with about 20 colleagues at a well-known Chinese restaurant in Jurong, a source told The Straits Times.

It is understood that at least eight of them have now been quarantined.

The source who knows the 41-year-old infected patient said government officials served his colleagues the quarantine orders from around midnight to about 4am on Friday (Feb 7).

The man was one of two new confirmed cases announced by the Health Ministry on Thursday night. The other new case is a 27-year-old man who was one of four investigated at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) after attending a private business meeting at the Grand Hyatt Singapore.

The 41-year-old had developed a fever on Jan 28, the same day he had lunch with his colleagues. ST understands that he works in a company in Jurong.

He went to two general practitioner (GP) clinics on Jan 29 and Jan 30 respectively, and was subsequently admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on Feb 3.

One of the clinics is Phoenix Medical Group in Greenwich V in Seletar.

According to a letter circulated by the clinic and seen by ST, the man had visited the clinic twice, once on Jan 30 and again on Feb 3.

He "appeared quite ill with gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms, and a moderate fever", said the letter, which was addressed to friends and patients of Phoenix Medical.

 
 
 

He was advised to go to the emergency department, but as he "did not fulfil the MOH criteria for a suspect case", he was not sent to hospital via the dedicated ambulance service.

He is now warded at the NCID in an isolation room.

The clinic's rooms, corridors, table tops, seats and examination couches have since been thoroughly cleaned, said the medical group.

"Our physician who saw the patient has not been ordered to go on home quarantine or leave of absence, but has voluntarily opted to take a leave of absence till Feb 17, 2020," said Phoenix Medical.

ST has contacted the man's company for comments.

Dr Chua Hshan Cher, 41, a doctor at the clinic in Greenwich V, said the clinic has stepped up its preventive measures following confirmation that the 41-year-old patient tested positive for the coronavirus.

This includes daily temperature checks for staff members and hourly cleaning and disinfecting of its premises. 

“All of us at the clinic are healthy and well,” added Dr Chua, who did not treat the 41-year-old patient. 

He said the clinic decided to release the circular as they wanted to be clear about the timeline of events and ensure there would be “zero speculation” about what had happened. 

While the information might cause a “short-term hit” to the clinic’s reputation, Dr Chua said: “We believe that honesty is the best policy. It’s a long battle ahead and we feel that people should be appropriately informed about this. 

“It’s more for awareness. We’re all in this together.”