'Frustrating' to have possibly caught Covid-19 while on SHN at Mandarin Orchard, says Briton

A guest leaving the Mandarin Orchard on Dec 20, 2020, after 13 cases of Covid-19 were found among guests who served their SHN at the hotel.
A guest leaving the Mandarin Orchard on Dec 20, 2020, after 13 cases of Covid-19 were found among guests who served their SHN at the hotel.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - They had taken extra precautions before a much-anticipated trip to Singapore to visit relatives over the year-end festive season, including self-isolating at home in Britain for more than two weeks before arriving in Singapore on Oct 26.

But the 64-year-old Briton and his Singaporean wife ended up being among the 13 cases that were suspected to have been infected with Covid-19 while under stay-home notices (SHNs) at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel.

"We didn't even go to the supermarket as we wanted to ensure that we were clean before arriving in Singapore...that made it even more frustrating for us (when we found out about the suspected transmission)," the Briton, who declined to be named, told The Straits Times on Sunday (Dec 20).

"We had put in so much effort to avoid people, as cases in the United Kingdom were much worse."

On Saturday (Dec 19), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it was investigating the 13 cases, as it was found that they had been infected by coronavirus strains that have "high genetic similarity", implying that the infections may have come from the same source.

But the 13 people had flown in from 10 countries, such as the United States, South Korea, Britain, the Philippines and Bahrain. All 13 were originally classified as imported cases.

The incident has resulted in all guests being progressively checked out of the hotel, more than 500 staff being tested for Covid-19, and the hotel being deep-cleaned and disinfected.

So far, serological tests conducted on three members of staff have come back positive, indicating likely past infections, MOH said on Sunday. Epidemiological investigations of these cases are in progress.

Responding to this news, the Briton, a retiree who worked in banking, told The Straits Times that he hoped to have a "full and frank discussion" with the authorities about what had happened, once investigations into the cases have been concluded.

His wife, 59, had tested positive for Covid-19 on Nov 6, as part of a mandatory test that all travellers had to take towards the end of their SHN period.

He was transferred to another hotel after his wife tested positive. Shortly after that, he developed a dry cough, aches and pains, a fever and experienced bad chills, and tested positive on Nov 8.

They were treated at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), before being moved to a community care facility, from which they were discharged in late November after recovering from Covid-19. They are still in Singapore.

"It was very scary to learn that I had Covid-19, given my age and my history of asthma. I always believed that if I caught Covid, I probably wouldn't survive it because of (my risk factors). But it was a huge relief that I managed to come through, and I was lucky to have received great care at the NCID," said the man.

"The biggest frustration was that I lost the first 34 days of my holiday...we had been looking forward to getting a little bit of release after what had been a terrible year for everybody."