Dengue dread spreads to Orchard's offices, homes

SINGAPORE - The Orchard Road lights are up and ready to usher in the Christmas festivities. But an unwelcome visitor is threatening to spoil the party.

The number of dengue cases in the Orchard Cluster continues to climb, hitting 82 on Friday. What's more, the threat no longer seems limited to the Orchard Gateway construction site, as an increasing number of individuals working and living in the area have started falling prey to the mosquito menace.

The 53 construction workers at the site still make up the bulk of the cases in the cluster. But the remaining 29 victims come from the gaggle of high-end offices and homes in Orchard Road.

One multinational company located at TripleOne Somerset has seen four of its employees fall victim to the dengue virus over the past two weeks.

Ms Wen Yue Ying, 23, an executive at the company, said she discovered she was down with dengue fever on Nov 1, and soon found out that three of her colleagues had also contracted the virus.

She said her office has since put in place several precautionary measures. Anti-mosquito patches have also been distributed to all employees.

Back at work today, Ms Wen said she still can't help but worry that she might get bitten a second time. "I heard the second time will be worse, so I'll be wearing mosquito-repellent patches and avoiding areas that could be potential breeding grounds," said Ms Wen.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it detected 11 instances of mosquito larvae breeding, and that it has since inspected the construction site nine times and has been checking other buildings in the vicinity on a daily basis.

The Orchard Gateway construction site has already been closed twice - between Oct 17 and 21 on a voluntary basis, and between Oct 25 and 31 when a Stop Work Order was imposed by NEA.

NEA said: "The contractor will be prosecuted in court. The site will be shut down for a longer period if any further breeding is detected". With the Christmas period upon us, retailers have started to take stock of the dengue situation. The months of November and December are particularly important for them, with some seeing more than a doubling of customers.

Ms May Wong, 30, a nail technician at Plush's 313@somerset outlet, said the store saw a 10 per cent fall in customers when the Orchard area was first flagged as a dengue red zone.

While business has reverted to normal, she worries that it might take a hit again.

On the other hand, Ms Imelda Mondala, 33, is less worried as many of her customers are tourists. "As they have travelled all the way here, I think the dengue will not stop them from shopping in the area," said the Lacoste sales assistant.

Still, Ms Cheryl Goh, general manager of 313@somerset, said the mall's management is taking precautions.

"Having understood the dengue situation around the Somerset precinct of Orchard Road, we are proactively carrying out various additional inspections and measures," she said.

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