Past Covid-19 infections found in 3 Mandarin Orchard staff: MOH

Staff in PPE working at the Mandarin Orchard on Dec 20, 2020, after 13 Covid-19 cases were detected among people who had served their SHN at the hotel.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Three people who are serving their stay-home notice (SHN) at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore have tested positive for Covid-19. It is likely these are imported cases and not linked to 13 other cases being investigated, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Sunday (Dec 20).

Additionally, serological tests conducted on three members of staff have come back positive, indicating likely past infections. Epidemiological investigations of these cases are in progress.

The cases were detected after guests serving SHN at the hotel were swabbed as part of measures taken after MOH launched a probe into 13 coronavirus cases among people who had previously served their SHN at Mandarin Orchard Singapore.

The 13 were suspected to have been infected after arriving here, as it was found that they had been infected by coronavirus strains that have "high genetic similarity", implying that the infections may have come from one source.

This is despite the fact that they had flown in from 10 different countries - such as the United States, South Korea, Britain, the Philippines and Bahrain.

In a press release, MOH said that 394 people serving SHN at the hotel have been swabbed, and 384 test results are ready, while 10 are pending. Of the results that are ready, 381 have come back negative for Covid-19.

The three guests who tested positive were immediately taken to hospital via ambulance. "As they have recent travel history, it is likely that these are imported, and have been included in today's (Sunday's) case count," said MOH.

"Nevertheless, the National Public Health Laboratory will conduct whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis to determine if they could be linked to the 13 cases. It takes about four weeks to culture the virus and complete the genome sequencing," it added.

So far, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for 158 staff of Mandarin Orchard Singapore have come back negative for Covid-19.

Mandarin Orchard Singapore has stopped accepting new guests since Saturday and is checking out existing guests progressively, MOH said. Individuals serving SHN at the hotel have been transported via dedicated vehicles to alternative SHN dedicated facilities.

The 13 cases being probed had all served their SHN in the same tower of the hotel between Oct 22 and Nov 11, and were confirmed to have Covid-19 between Nov 2 and 11.

This suggests that these cases were likely infected from a similar source, MOH and Singapore Tourism Board said in a joint statement on Saturday.

The incident has resulted in all hotel guests being progressively checked out, about 500 staff being tested for Covid-19, and the hotel being deep-cleaned and disinfected.

But experts said the matter is unlikely to spark a wave of infections here, given that more than a month has passed since they were confirmed to have Covid-19. That would have been enough for two incubation periods of 14 days each.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.