Caixin
Feb 09, 2020 04:19 PM

Singapore Records Seven New Coronavirus Cases

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The total number of coronavirus cases in Singapore has grown to 40. Photo: The Straits Times
The National Centre for Infectious Diseases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The total number of coronavirus cases in Singapore has grown to 40. Photo: The Straits Times

(The Straits Times) — There are seven new coronavirus cases in Singapore, the Ministry of Health announced on Feb. 8.

Of these, five are linked to previously announced cases.

Among the new confirmed cases are a taxi driver and a private-hire car driver, it said.

There is also a possible new cluster comprising five cases, linked to The Life Church and Missions Singapore in Paya Lebar.

The total number of people infected in Singapore has grown to 40.

Two of the patients have been discharged, but four are now in critical condition and in an intensive care unit, said MOH in its latest update.

Singapore moved its disease outbreak response up one level to “orange” on Friday, after cases surfaced which could not be traced to the source of infection.

Under the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon), “orange” means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact, though the situation is still under control. It is one step below “red,” which signifies an out-of-control pandemic.

Extra measures are in place to reduce mingling in schools, tighten access to hospitals and limit large events.

After news of the raised outbreak response became public on Friday, items such as rice, instant noodles and toilet paper began flying off the shelves.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday that there are ample supplies.

“We are not locking down the city or confining everybody to stay at home,” he said.

Globally, the situation has escalated, with more than 34,000 people infected and more than 720 deaths. At least 320 patients are outside the Chinese mainland.

The government has been ramping up its defenses against the virus since January, with many of the measures in “orange” already in place before the enhanced alert was announced.

The Dorscon system was set up after the 2003 SARS outbreak. Code orange was imposed during the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009.

Currently, the Health Ministry does contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact with the confirmed cases.

It is a labor-intensive task, with seven teams of 10 people working in two shifts from 8.30 a.m. till 10 p.m., seven days a week, calling people to check if they are close contacts of coronavirus patients.

But if the numbers keep growing, and the virus becomes widespread, it will at some point be futile to try to trace every contact.

If the authorities still hospitalize and isolate every suspect case, hospitals will be overwhelmed, said Lee on Saturday.

“At that point, provided that the fatality rate stays low like flu, we should shift our approach,” he said.

This would include encouraging those with only mild symptoms to see their family doctor and rest at home instead of going to the hospital, and letting hospitals and healthcare workers focus on the most vulnerable patients — the elderly, young children, and those with medical complications.

Currently, the mortality rate of the virus in China is 2%, but outside Hubei province, the mortality rate is 0.2%.

This story was originally published by The Straits Times

Contact editor Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)


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