SINGAPORE - Two more Singaporeans were confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (Feb 6). One did not travel to China recently and does not seem to be linked to previous cases.
The 41-year-old patient with no apparent links to past cases tested positive for the virus late on Wednesday night. Contact tracing is still in progress, with a focus on identifying any links he may have with past cases or travellers from China.
The other case announced on Thursday also has no recent travel history to China. The 27-year-old Singaporean, however, went to a conference at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel last month. Three other attendees - two South Koreans and a Malaysian - tested positive for the virus after they left Singapore.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases here to 30, of which 11 are Singaporeans.
So far, all previously announced confirmed cases have been either Chinese nationals from Hubei, or individuals with links to travellers who are Chinese nationals.
All of these cases have been isolated and ring-fenced, said the MOH.
"But we must be prepared for the possibility of new infection clusters involving locals within the community, not linked with recent travel to China or contact with recent PRC travellers," said the ministry, noting that this has already happened in several places outside mainland China.
“We stand ready to ramp up our measures even more once we have some findings from the ongoing investigations.”
The two new cases announced on Thursday are in stable condition. Of the remaining cases, 25 are stable or improving, and one has been discharged.
But the condition of two cases has worsened.
One is now in critical condition in the intensive care unit, and another requires additional oxygen support.
DETAILS ON NEW CASES
First case: He is a 41-year-old Singaporean who did not travel to China recently and, for now, does not appear to have links to previous cases.
The man developed a fever on Jan 28 and visited a general practitioner clinic the next day.
He sought treatment at another GP clinic on Jan 30 before he was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on Monday. He was confirmed to be infected on Wednesday night.
The man was transferred to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for further treatment and is warded in an isolation room.
Epidemiological investigations and contact tracing are being done to identify people who had close contact with him, and to establish any link he may have had with confirmed cases in Singapore or travellers from mainland China.
The MOH said it is interviewing the patient and his close contacts, and investigating the locations he recently visited.
Second case: He is a 27-year-old Singaporean who also has no recent travel history to mainland China.
He is one of the four Singapore residents being investigated at the NCID after attending a conference at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel from Jan 20 to 22.
The MOH said 109 people attended the event at the hotel, including 15 Singapore residents. The remaining 94 overseas participants have left Singapore.
The private business meeting included participants from China, including Hubei. Also at the event were two South Korean men and one Malaysian man confirmed to be infected after they left Singapore, prompting a World Health Organisation investigation into the case.
The MOH did not reveal how, where or when the Malaysian and the two South Koreans were infected, according to Grand Hyatt Singapore.
The 27-year-old Singaporean who attended the same conference was confirmed to have the coronavirus infection on Thursday. He is warded in an isolation room at the NCID.
On Thursday, Malaysia said the sister of the infected Malaysian man who went to the Singapore conference was confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus, after coming into direct contact with him when he returned to Malaysia.
After Japan's 45 cases, Singapore has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections outside of China.
On Wednesday, four cases of the coronavirus infection were confirmed by the MOH, including the youngest patient confirmed so far, a six-month-old baby who is the child of an infected couple. The couple's maid was also infected.
Three of Wednesday's cases are linked to a cluster of local transmissions - the first here - announced on Tuesday. The last case is an imported one involving a Chinese tourist from China's Wuhan city.
The cluster of local transmissions is linked to a group of 20 tourists from Guangxi, China, that visited health products shop Yong Thai Hang in Cavan Road in Lavender. With the cases announced on Wednesday, the number of cases linked to the tour group is now seven.
The MOH said the Chinese health authorities have confirmed that two travellers from the tour group have the coronavirus infection.
Update on infected baby and father
The ministry said on Thursday that the infected six-month-old baby, a Singaporean, was cared for at home and was not in any infant care facility before he was admitted to hospital.
The baby’s father, a 45-year-old Singaporean, developed symptoms last Saturday. He visited a GP clinic the next day and was later isolated at the NCID on Tuesday.
Before he was admitted, he was at his home in Jalan Bukit Merah and worked as a private-hire driver.
He visited Tiong Bahru Plaza, Tiong Bahru Market and Beo Crescent Market and Food Centre.
The MOH said the risk of infection from transient contact, such as on public transport or in public places, is assessed to be low.
The man’s wife works at the Yong Thai Hang shop, which caters to Chinese tour groups.
The 28-year-old woman is a Singapore permanent resident who did not recently travel to China. On Tuesday, the MOH confirmed that she and the family’s foreign domestic helper, a 44-year-old Indonesian woman, were infected with the coronavirus.
This was after Yong Thai Hang was visited by the tour group from Guangxi on Jan 23. The Singaporean tour guide of the group was later confirmed to be infected.
The coronavirus, known as 2019-nCov, first emerged in Wuhan in December last year and has so far proven to be more infectious than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).
As of Thursday, the outbreak has infected more than 28,000 people and killed more than 560, with Hong Kong reporting its first death from the coronavirus on Tuesday, the second fatality outside mainland China.
The deceased was a 39-year-old man with an underlying illness. He had taken the high-speed train from Hong Kong to Wuhan city in Hubei province, and from Changsha in Hunan province to Hong Kong last month.
Most of the deaths from the virus occurred in central Hubei province.
In the wake of the outbreak, a growing number of countries, including Italy, the United States, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Russia, have put in place travel restrictions. Germany, France and the US have evacuated citizens from China.
Several major airlines have also halted flights to and from China, deepening concerns of a widespread economic slowdown.
In Singapore, measures to combat the outbreak include mask distribution at residents' committee centres and community centres islandwide, which began last Saturday.
The Government announced on Jan 30 that all 1.3 million households in Singapore would be given a pack of four masks each amid reports of shops running out of stock.
On Tuesday, the Government also said that large gatherings and communal activities, such as assemblies and excursions, will be suspended at schools, pre-schools and eldercare facilities here from Wednesday after the first local transmissions of the coronavirus were reported.
The MOH said on Thursday that 310 suspected cases have tested negative for the virus so far. The test results for the remaining 147 cases are pending.
The ministry has identified 435 close contacts of the confirmed cases. Of these, 353 are still in Singapore, with 348 already contacted and being quarantined or isolated. Efforts are being made to contact the remaining five close contacts.
The MOH still advised Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei province and all non-essential travel to mainland China.
Members of the public should also observe good personal hygiene such as frequently washing their hands with soap.
They should also wear a mask if they have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath, and seek medical attention promptly if they are feeling unwell.