Hidden community cases remain a concern: Wong

Minister says S'pore is dealing with a variant that can spread faster and cause large clusters

Hidden Covid-19 cases in the community remain a source of concern, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday, adding that the recent outbreak in a home for intellectually disabled adults is a "stark reminder" of this fact.

"We are dealing with a very infectious and highly contagious strain of the virus, which is capable of spreading much faster than anything we've had to deal with before, and causing large clusters to break out easily," he said. "So we really need to take the precautions and safeguards very seriously."

The number of new community cases hit a two-week high yesterday, with 22 of the 35 reported cases linked to a cluster at MINDSville@ Napiri Adult Disability Home in Hougang. Of the remaining 13 cases, 12 were linked to previous cases.

The last peak in new cases came on May 16 - the day stricter rules on social gatherings came into force - when 38 locally transmitted cases were reported.

The Ministry of Health said last night that all residents of Block 506 Hougang Avenue 8 and visitors will have to be tested for Covid-19 again to ring-fence possible cases, as new infections have emerged since they last had to be tested on May 21 and 22.

Staff of shops in seven nearby blocks must also take the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test today and tomorrow.

Residents and visitors to these blocks are encouraged to do a voluntary test this month.

Yesterday also marked the start of the nationwide inoculation drive for students aged 12 and above, with a steady stream of people seen at vaccination centres from early morning. More than half the 52,000 parents or students who received an SMS on Tuesday to book their vaccination slots did so.

In his video message on Facebook, Mr Wong gave an update on the virus situation following a closed-door meeting of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 yesterday morning.

"We've been monitoring the situation carefully and considering what are some of the next steps we might take," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force. "We are very concerned about the hidden or cryptic cases that are still out there in the community."

In a separate post yesterday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said 30 people had received their vaccinations at home since the service for those unable to leave their homes was announced on May 18.

Vaccine doses from the nearest vaccination centre are packed into an ice box with a temperature monitoring system by a team consisting of a doctor and nurse, who administers the jab and observes the patient for post-vaccination reactions.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said on Wednesday that 27 people - 23 residents and four staff at MINDSville @Napiri - had tested positive. None of the residents had left the premises since May 7, except for medical appointments, while 34 staff living there had been allowed to leave only for essential purposes.

Of the 255 residents and staff on the premises, 91 per cent were vaccinated in February and March, MSF said. All have since been tested for the virus, with 23 of the 27 cases found to be asymptomatic.

The home has since stopped all admissions and discharging of residents, prohibited all visitors, and completed a thorough cleaning and disinfection of its premises.

In his message, Mr Wong reiterated his appeal to all Singaporeans to stay home as much as possible and see a doctor to get tested should they feel unwell. The Government will continue to ramp up testing and speed up its nationwide vaccination programme, he said, adding that people should get vaccinated as soon as they can.

"As our vaccination rates continue to rise, we will have greater confidence in reopening and resuming activities safely."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2021, with the headline 'Hidden community cases remain a concern: Wong'. Subscribe