Singapore reported 632 new cases of COVID-19 as of noon on Tuesday (May 5), taking the country’s total to 19,410.
The majority of the new cases of COVID-19 are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its daily update of preliminary figures.
Nine cases are Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
“We are still working through the details of the cases and further updates will be shared via the MOH press release that will be issued tonight,” the ministry said.
Lifting circuit breaker in Singapore
The COVID-19 situation in Singapore was discussed in Parliament on Monday, with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong laying out some factors that need to be considered before the circuit breaker can be lifted.
One of the factors was that the number of community new cases of COVID-19 daily should fall to zero or single digits over a sustained period of time, with very low numbers of unlinked cases.
He added there was also a need for a fall in the number of migrant worker cases, the largest group affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore.
Mr Gan noted that this will take “a while longer”.
While the COVID-19 situation within larger foreign worker dormitories was mostly stable for now, the condition at smaller dorms was still “mixed” and “taking up much bandwidth”, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo explained on Monday.
Though the authorities were still taking steps to contain the new cases of COVID-19, it was also looking at getting its recovery phase right, Mrs Teo said.
Part of the plan is building community recovery facilities and housing recovered workers in suitable accommodations to minimise the risks of recurrent transmissions, and finding a way to allow recovered and uninfected workers to go back to work safely.
“This will again be an enormous challenge, and not just the logistics of it,” Mrs Teo said, noting that the public officers dealing with the new cases of COVID-19 among the foreign worker community were managing 400,000 migrant workers right now.
During the parliamentary debate, nominated MP Anthea Ong asked if the Government would apologise to the workers for the “dismal conditions” at their dormitories.
Mrs Teo said the focus right now was on managing the workers’ health and financial situation, which she said were “things that they have asked of us”.
“I have not come across one single migrant worker himself that has demanded an apology,” she added.
She also said that it was unnecessary to compare Singapore’s response to other countries, after MP Liang Eng Hwa asked why Singapore’s foreign worker infection rate was much higher when compared to other countries that had a similarly large migrant worker population.
“In terms of dealing with new cases of COVID-19, countries have their own unique situation to deal with, including how they want to address the migrant workers-related issues,” Mrs Teo said.
Nationwide testing for new cases of COVID-19
Singapore is also looking into a nationwide COVID-19 testing strategy, as the Government scales up its testing capacity, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong added in Parliament.
To date, Singapore has conducted more than 140,000 tests for COVID-19, which works out to 2,500 tests per 100,000 people in Singapore, said Mr Gan.
Responding to Members of Parliament who asked about the different tests available, the Health Minister said Singapore uses mainly the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect confirmed COVID-19 cases. PCR tests work by detecting the virus RNA from a nose or throat swab, and is the gold standard for detecting current infection, Mr Gan explained.
PCR testing is done to diagnose suspect cases to provide early treatment and isolate close contacts, as well as to do screening and active case finding of individuals at risk, such as migrant workers moved from their dormitories before they return to work.
This kind of testing is also used in conducting surveillance to monitor undetected cases in the community.
Currently, Singapore has the capacity to conduct more than 8,000 PCR tests a day, up from 2,900 a day in early April.
Authorities are working with various private and public sector partners to further increase the testing capacity to up to 40,000 a day.
“With this increase, we will widen the net that we cast for diagnostic testing for symptomatic cases, active case finding, screening and surveillance testing in our community and among workers, including migrant workers,” said Mr Gan.
“We will also do more testing and monitoring to pick out asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases among priority groups such as nursing home residents and staff, to prevent clusters from developing. Testing of new cases of COVID-19 is crucial as risk of infection will increase when we allow more economic and social activities to resume.”
Infection in public health sector
A healthcare volunteer at the Singapore Expo community isolation facility has tested positive for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday (May 4).
The 52-year-old Singaporean woman had no recent travel history to affected countries or regions and is currently warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
The woman is one of three public healthcare sector workers infected with COVID-19, as announced by MOH on Monday.
The other two are a 33-year-old Singaporean woman who is a facilities manager at NCID and a 32-year-old Singaporean doctor at Changi General Hospital.
This is the second public healthcare sector coronavirus case that is linked to the facility, after a 34-year-old Singaporean woman tested positive for the disease on Saturday.
MOH said the nurse, employed by the Health Promotion Board, had not gone to work since the onset of symptoms.
The Singapore Expo facility, which has been operational since Apr 10, houses both recovering patients and “early” patients who are confirmed to have COVID-19 but are mostly well.
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