Irresponsible behaviour of KTV cluster not the reason for return to tighter Covid-19 rules: Ong Ye Kung

Tables and chairs being taped off at Berseh Food Centre in advance of tightened Covid-19 measures on July 21, 2021 . ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The irresponsible behaviour of people in the cluster linked to KTV lounges is not the reason for the reversion to phase two (heightened alert) of Singapore's reopening, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Like everyone, he is upset with their actions, added Mr Ong in a Facebook post on Wednesday (July 21).

But the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 thought it could control the KTV cluster, and decided to keep food and beverage establishments open initially with tightened restrictions, including allowing those who are fully vaccinated to eat out in groups of up to five.

Mr Ong, who co-chairs the task force, said he received several queries - including from his friends on WhatsApp - asking for the reasons for the rollback to the earlier phase and whether everyone should be paying for the mistakes of the few who were irresponsible.

He pointed out that the number of cases from the KTV cluster has fallen over the past few days. The cluster has a total of 215 cases. Eight new cases were reported in this cluster on Wednesday.

"What caused a slide back to phase two (heightened alert) is the Jurong Fishery Port cluster," said Mr Ong.

"Unfortunately, while our fishmongers and stall assistants were going about earning an honest living, they got infected at the port. As they went on to work at various markets around the island, many more cases in the community were seeded."

He added that the markets are frequented by seniors, many of whom remain unvaccinated.

"This is most worrying, and we are at risk of an uncontrollable rise in cases, which could potentially result in many severe illnesses or even deaths," he warned. "So we need to pre-emptively tighten up social activities."

In his post, Mr Ong also touched on the suspension of dining in at F&B outlets, given that there have been no cases detected in those settings.

"Unfortunately, it does not work like that. If five friends meet for dinner, each has five people at home, who in turn meet their friends in groups of five, we have a network of (125 connections) for the virus to work itself through," he explained.

"This will turbocharge the Jurong Fishery Port cluster further."

Mr Ong highlighted that 50 per cent of the population have received their two doses of the Covid-19 vaccination.

"It is a good rate but needs to go higher," he noted. "This percentage will be going up by 1 percentage point every day. In two weeks, we will be at 64 per cent or more. That will put us in a much stronger and resilient position when we review the phase two (heightened alert) rules.

Mr Ong said Singapore is "so close" to being in a stronger and confident position.

"Given the gravity of the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, we felt it is not the time to risk it all now," he added.

"It's a frustrating situation, but I hope with my explanation, we understand why the measures are necessary."

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