New COVID-19 cases in the community remained in the single digits for the third consecutive day on Tuesday (May 12), the first time since Singapore entered its “circuit breaker” period.
Four community cases were reported on Tuesday, comprising three Singaporeans and one work pass holder.
Singapore implemented a slew of circuit breaker measures from Apr 7 to curb the spread of COVID-19, including closing most non-essential workplaces and moving schools to full home-based learning.
Additional social distancing measures were also set in place for services that were allowed to remain open, including food and beverage outlets and supermarkets.
The circuit breaker period was originally scheduled to end on May 4, but has since been extended to Jun 1.
The authorities also made it mandatory on Apr 14 for residents to wear masks outside of their homes.
Several people have been fined for breaching safe distancing rules and not wearing a mask in public.
Reducing community infections
Singapore’s circuit breaker restrictions have “shown promise” in reducing COVID-19 infections in the community, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in a multi-ministry task force press conference on Tuesday.
The average number of daily community cases has fallen from 30 cases in late-April to eight in the past week, said Mr Gan.
However, he also cautioned that the number could rise again as restrictions are gradually lifted.
“As we gradually lift the circuit breaker measures, there is a risk that the community cases may rise again. This has been the experience of many countries which have seen a second wave of infections after relaxing their social distancing measures,” he said.
On May 5, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners were allowed to resume acupuncture treatments for pain management, and medical halls linked to TCM outlets were also allowed to sell retail products.
On Tuesday, home-based food businesses, hair salons and selected food retail outlets and food manufacturing firms were allowed to resume operations.
Mr Gan added that Singapore has to remain “very careful, remain vigilant and minimise the risk of any sharp rise in cases, or large clusters in the community”.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post after the press conference that there have been requests for the relaxation of some measures, especially the restriction on visiting family.
This, however, must be “considered very carefully” to ensure the safety of seniors, who are particularly vulnerable if they contract COVID-19, he said.
Singapore had a total of 24,671 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, most of them foreign workers.
Another 626 patients were discharged on Tuesday, a new daily high.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 33 “false positive” cases after one of the laboratories experienced an “apparatus calibration issue” with one of its test kits.
Two other cases, which initially had equivocal results, were also confirmed to be negative upon re-testing.
Of these, three were from the community.
These “false positive” cases were discovered as a result of a quality assurance programme put in place to check on test results, said MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak at the press conference on Tuesday.
Authorities are giving the lab time to properly recalibrate and revalidate its test kits as well as work through its “quality assurance processes”, he said.