Vietnamese woman who is first Covid-19 case in KTV cluster entered S'pore in February via familial ties lane

Short-term visitors cannot engage in any form of employment, or in any business, profession or occupation in Singapore. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The woman who is the first case linked to the growing KTV cluster of Covid-19 infections is a short-term visit pass holder from Vietnam who entered Singapore in February via the familial ties lane, sponsored by her Singaporean boyfriend.

In a joint statement on Friday (July 16), the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that police investigations into possible illegal, including vice-related, activities within this KTV cluster are ongoing.

"If the investigations show any criminal offence on the part of these foreigners, ICA and MOM will take firm action against them, including cancelling their work pass, student pass or visit pass, and deport them," they said.

The two agencies added that short-term visitors cannot engage in any form of employment, or in any business, profession or occupation in Singapore. Those who are found to have broken this law are liable to be prosecuted, or have their visit pass cancelled, and deported and be barred from re-entering Singapore.

Employers who illegally employ these pass holders, or abet these pass holders in illegal employment will also face enforcement action, such as a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $30,000, or imprisonment of a term not exceeding 12 months, or both. Their work pass privileges may also be suspended.

In their release, the two agencies noted that 54 cases of Covid-19 were linked to the KTV cluster as at Wednesday (July 14). Of the 54 cases, 30 are non-Singaporeans.

Among them were two permanent residents, 14 work pass holders, one student's pass holder, five long-term visit pass holders and eight short-term visit pass holders.

Of the 30, 25 had entered Singapore before 2021, the authorities said.

Of the eight short-term visit pass holders, two had entered the country before border entry measures took effect in March 2020.

Another two had entered Singapore in late 2020 via the air travel pass, which enables foreigners, including business and official travellers, from specific countries or regions to enter Singapore.

This travel lane was available to visitors travelling from Vietnam to Singapore between Oct 8 last year and Feb 13 this year.

The remaining four short-term visit pass holders entered Singapore in 2021 via the familial ties lane, which facilitates the entry of foreigners with intimate ties in Singapore.

The eight people have remained in Singapore through extension of their short-term visit pass.

"During this pandemic, ICA has been assessing applications to extend short-term visit passes on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration extenuating reasons, such as international travel restrictions and flight availability, and whether the applicants have family ties in Singapore," said ICA and MOM.

"For example, Vietnamese nationals can only return to Vietnam through relief flights arranged by the Vietnamese authorities."

The woman who is the index case went to a general practitioner clinic on July 11 with symptoms of acute respiratory infection. She was then found to be positive for Covid-19 infection and was immediately admitted to hospital.

Contact tracing and investigations later showed the woman had frequented many KTV outlets.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it was investigating Covid-19 infections among a group of Vietnamese social hostesses who had frequented KTV lounges or clubs that had pivoted to operating as food and beverage outlets.

Several KTV clubs and lounges, such as Club Dolce in Balestier Point and Empress KTV in Tanglin Shopping Centre, have been linked to the cluster.

As at Thursday, 88 cases have been linked to the KTV lounge cluster, making it one of Singapore's largest active clusters.

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