First case in Westlite Juniper dorm Covid-19 cluster detected through rostered routine testing

Eight new cases brought the cluster size to 48 on Aug 11, 2021.
Eight new cases brought the cluster size to 48 on Aug 11, 2021.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The first Covid-19 case linked to the currently active Westlite Juniper dormitory cluster was detected on July 24 through rostered routine testing, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (Aug 12).

The cluster comprised 48 cases as at Thursday.

The cluster was announced on July 27 by the Health Ministry, and comprised nine cases then.

In a statement to The Straits Times, MOM said that six other cases in the cluster were close contacts of the first case.

The remaining cases linked to the dorm located in Mandai were detected either through pre-emptive testing at the dormitory and quarantine facilities, or through rostered routine testing.

"They were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and have been moved to a healthcare facility for further care and treatment," said MOM.

The ministry added that the close contacts of the infected cases have been isolated, and that pre-emptive swabs were also conducted on all residents living in Westlite Juniper dormitory to quickly detect, isolate and contain other potential cases.

"In addition, all residents will be on seven-day rostered routine tests to quickly ring-fence potential transmission at the dormitory," said MOM.

Westlite Accommodation, the dormitory's operator, said that the dorm housed 1,408 residents in July, about 500 fewer than its licensed capacity of 1,900 people.

Following the detection of this cluster, about 500 residents were moved in batches to government quarantine facilities, said the operator.

It added that 380 of these residents have since returned to the dormitory, and that all residents currently living in the dormitory have been cleared to go to work.

"Westlite is working closely with the authorities on the necessary measures to support testing, isolation and investigations," added the operator.

It also said that since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Singapore last year, it has implemented and continually enhanced infection prevention control and safe living measures.

For instance, workers are grouped in smaller "bubbles" to reduce mingling, and groups are assigned different walking routes as well as pick-up and drop-off points within the dorm.

Singapore's first Covid-19 cluster in a foreign worker dormitory was reported in March last year, before infections among residents across multiple dorms escalated to a peak of almost 1,400 new cases daily in April.

By the time no new cases were reported in dormitories for the first time on Oct 13 since March, the number of infections in dormitories numbered 54,485.

As at Wednesday, more than 80 per cent of Singapore's Covid-19 cases have been dorm residents, although the number of new daily cases reported among this group has largely been in single digits since October last year.

Westlite Accommodation said that since April this year, when Covid-19-positive cases were detected in Singapore within the community, it closed all communal facilities within its dorms, such as gyms, recreation rooms, canteens and beer gardens.

They will remain closed until further notice.

MOM said that its Assurance, Care and Engagement Group will continue to enforce safe living measures at dormitories, and maintain tight surveillance over migrant workers with acute respiratory illness symptoms.

This is in addition to wastewater testing and ensuring workers comply with their rostered tests, the ministry said.