SINGAPORE - Singapore's first locally transmitted Covid-19 case in 16 days is a Singaporean who works as a service engineer, and had dinner with 12 family members at Seoul Garden in Tampines Mall last Saturday (Nov 21), the Health Ministry (MOH) said on Thursday (Nov 26).
The family had occupied three tables at the restaurant, and there was mingling between the groups. Investigations are currently ongoing to assess if there had been any breach of the relevant safe management measures, MOH added, and epidemiological investigations are in progress.
Among those present at the dinner was his two-year-old niece. She had earlier been issued a five-day medical certificate from Nov 20 to Nov 24 for a runny nose, and has since tested negative for Covid-19.
In the meantime, all his identified close contacts, including his family members at the dinner, have been isolated and placed in quarantine and will be tested at the start and end of their quarantine period, so that asymptomatic cases will be detected, the ministry said.
Serological tests on his household and family contacts will also be conducted to determine if he could have been infected by them.
The man, who developed a fever and sore throat on Monday, works at Master Systems Marine. His job entails going onboard vessels docked at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier for servicing and maintenance of ships' navigational systems.
He typically worked alone, and had no interaction with vessel crew except for a supervising crew member. On days when he was not working onboard vessels, he had remained at his office located at Vertex Building Tower B, located at 33 Ubi Avenue 3.
He reported that he wore a surgical mask during his work onboard the vessels and at the office, and that safe distancing and safe management measures were adhered to, said MOH.
After developing symptoms, he went to a general practitioner clinic the next day, where he was tested for Covid-19.
"We urge everyone to continue to exercise social responsibility, and to cooperate with the prevailing measures. This is yet another reminder that the virus has not been eradicated and that new cases and clusters can easily emerge in our community if we let our guard down," said MOH.
Besides the Seoul Garden outlet in Tampines Mall, Wisteria Mall was among places visited by Covid-19 patients while they were still infectious, said MOH on Thursday. A Jinjja Chicken outlet at Northpoint City and a Mr Prata outlet in Tampines were also added to the list.
MOH provides the list of locations that infectious Covid-19 patients visited for at least 30 minutes and the times they visited them to get people who were at those places at the same time to monitor their health closely for two weeks from the date of their visit. The full list of locations and times can be found on the gov.sg website.
It has said that close contacts would already have been notified and that there is no need to avoid these places as they would have been cleaned if necessary.
The service engineer is among five new coronavirus cases announced as at Thursday. There were no new cases from workers' dormitories, said the MOH.
The remaining four patients were imported cases, who had been placed on stay-home notices on arrival in Singapore, added MOH. Two are dependant's pass holders who arrived from Pakistan. The other two are a work permit holder who arrived from Malaysia, and a work pass holder who arrived from Nepal.
Thursday's new cases take Singapore's total to 58,195.
Commenting on the new community case, Professor Teo Yik Ying said that this highlights the need to remain vigilant, and why it is important not to dial down on community measures whenever the case numbers start to fall.
Prof Teo, who is dean at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, added: "The reality is having zero cases does not mean there are no infections out there; just that we are not finding these infections."
Experts have said previously that the chances of imported infections seeping into the community still exist.
A small fraction of infected travellers will pass undetected and may have a long incubation or latent period before the virus manifests itself.
Overall, the number of new cases in the community has remained low.
With 13 cases discharged on Thursday, 58,089 patients have fully recovered from the disease.
A total of 43 patients remain in hospital while 20 are recuperating in community facilities. One patient is in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Singapore has had 28 deaths from Covid-19 complications, while 15 who tested positive have died of other causes.
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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.