First case of Wuhan virus in Singapore; second case likely

Temperature screening, already at airport, to extend to land, sea checkpoints

Guests at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa yesterday. A man from China who is the first to test positive for the Wuhan virus in Singapore had stayed at the resort, said the Health Ministry. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Guests at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa yesterday. A man from China who is the first to test positive for the Wuhan virus in Singapore had stayed at the resort, said the Health Ministry. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
The 66-year-old patient from Wuhan arrived in Singapore on Jan 20, 2020. He is warded at Singapore General Hospital and is in a stable condition. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

A man from China is the first to test positive for the Wuhan virus in Singapore, with another Chinese national here in an unrelated case also likely to have contracted it.

The 66-year-old Wuhan resident arrived in the country with nine travelling companions on Monday, and stayed at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said at a briefing last night.

The announcement of Singapore's first confirmed case came amid intensified efforts here to keep the novel coronavirus at bay, including temperature screening at land and sea checkpoints starting this morning, in addition to ongoing checks at Changi Airport.

A 53-year-old woman, also a Chinese national but not with the group of 10, came up positive in preliminary tests, which were awaiting confirmation.

In addition, the man's son, 37, a suspected case, has been admitted to hospital, while the rest of the group have left the country.

All three were in stable condition, and there was no evidence that the virus had spread to the community, the ministry said.

After widening the net to include temperature screening for all air travellers from China, the number of suspected cases in Singapore went up. In total, there have been 28 suspected cases aged one to 78 years, said MOH. Seven people have been ruled out.

"All measures will be taken to contain its possible spread," said the ministry's director of communicable diseases Vernon Lee.

But more cases are expected, given the large number infected in China and high travel volume from the country to Singapore.

As for the first case here, the man was in isolation and was no longer a risk to the public, Associate Professor Lee stressed. "There is no need for the general public to panic or take any special measures."

Close contacts of confirmed cases will be quarantined.

Yesterday, in measures to shore up defences against the virus, the newly formed multi-ministry task force decided at its first meeting to enhance border control and intensify screening. Measures have also been stepped up in places such as hospitals, schools and army camps.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who heads the task force with National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, said that the effort was multi-tiered.

"First, we have to ensure that we do what we can in our defensive measures in terms of our border controls, temperature screening and so on, but at the same time, we have multi-layers of defence, including our clinics, hospitals, health institutions and healthcare workers who are at the front line."

Finally, he said, it was important that everyone protected themselves by observing personal hygiene and behaving in a socially responsible way.

SPH Brightcove Video
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said a China national has tested positive for the Wuhan virus. The 66-year-old man, a Wuhan resident, arrived in Singapore with nine travelling companions on Monday (Jan 20).

Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore had been preparing for a new viral outbreak since severe acute respiratory syndrome hit in 2003.

This included doing a thorough review of infrastructure, hospitals, isolation wards, and scientific testing and capabilities. "And I think we are much better prepared now," he said.

SPH Brightcove Video
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the newly-formed multi-ministry task force met for the first time, and decided to intensify border screening. This will be expanded to land and sea checkpoints.

China, too, had made progress in dealing with public health emergencies, he noted.

The country has taken the unprecedented move of putting extensive travel restrictions on cities at the heart of the outbreak, which has killed at least 17 and infected more than 600 people, with cases surfacing all over the world.

Singaporeans are advised to avoid travel to the whole of Hubei province, in view of the travel restrictions China has imposed on Huanggang, Chibi, Xiantao and Ezhou, in addition to Wuhan, and to be cautious and pay attention to hygiene when travelling to the rest of China.

The virus, now known as 2019-nCoV, is mutating and can now be passed from person to person. Infections are expected to spike over the Chinese New Year weekend, with hundreds of millions of travellers on the move.

• Additional reporting by Timothy Goh and Aw Cheng Wei

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2020, with the headline First case of Wuhan virus in Singapore; second case likely. Subscribe