SINGAPORE - The KTV cluster is coming under control, with the daily number of infected people over the past three days in the single-digit range, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday (July 26).
As at Sunday (July 25), the KTV cluster had a total of 237 infected people. For the past three days, the daily increase in infection for the cluster was six, five and five respectively, he said in Parliament.
Mr Ong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force (MTF) tackling the pandemic, also responded to Mr Xie Yao Quan's (Jurong GRC) question about whether the country would consider making the individuals in the KTV cluster pay for their Covid-19 medical expenses in full.
"We are all upset with the irresponsible behaviour of individuals involved in the KTV cluster, but we have a public responsibility to ensure that everyone receives the medical care that they need," said Mr Ong.
"We also do not want individuals, especially those who are infected, to avoid getting tested and treated, or hide where they have been from contact tracers, because they are afraid of getting penalised. This will make it harder to contain the spread, and could cost us more in the long run."
Mr Ong said before July 12, when the KTV cluster surfaced, the nation was on the path towards progressive opening, and the KTV cluster was a "major unexpected bump in the road".
He outlined how the multi-ministry task force decided to return to phase two (heightened alert) last Thursday.
The MTF deliberated on the matter, and advice of medical experts, and came to the conclusion that given the extensive tracing and testing efforts, and the population vaccination rate of two doses approaching 50 per cent at that time, it decided that the (KTV) cluster ought not significantly change our plans to open up, he said.
"Hence on July 16, the MTF announced our decision to maintain our then current safe management posture."
There were some adjustments to the rules for restaurants, to allow groups of five to dine together, provided everyone is fully vaccinated.
"Based on how the cluster has developed, we still believe that was the correct call," he added.
On July 16, it was announced that the phase three (heightened alert) measures would continue, but with changes to contain virus spread, including the closure of all nightlife establishments for two weeks.
The nightlife establishments that pivoted to food and beverage outlets cannot resume operations until they pass inspections to ensure that safe management measure protocols are in place, and they have received written approval, said Mr Ong on Monday.
It was also announced on July 16 that dining in was to be dialled back to up to two persons for those unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Those fully vaccinated could continue to dine in in groups of up to five.
"Unfortunately, things got derailed due to the larger and more troublesome cluster that we detected," said Mr Ong, referring to the larger Jurong Fishery Port cluster, which had 792 cases as at Sunday.
That led to the decision to further tighten restrictions, leading to the phase two (heightened alert).
As for the KTV cluster, the Ministry of Health (MOH) detected several Covid-19 positive cases among individuals who frequented KTV bars on July 12.
These individuals included patrons of the bars and hostesses who worked in the lounges.
"These activities were considered very high risk and had been disallowed since the beginning of the pandemic," said Mr Ong.
"The cluster grew rapidly, and MOH moved in quickly to isolate infected persons, identify rings of contacts and tested them for Covid-19."