Some Singapore COVID-19 cases due to ‘socially irresponsible’ behaviour: Health Minister

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Many “were the result of the socially irresponsible actions of a few individuals” who continued to attend events and activities despite being unwell, said Singapore Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

To curb the spread of the coronavirus in Singapore, members of the public should avoid social contact and see a doctor early if unwell, Gan said at a press conference.

About 35 out of the 160 confirmed cases in Singapore so far did not minimise social contact although they had already developed fever or respiratory symptoms, or had not consulted a doctor early when unwell. More than a fifth (22 per cent) continued to work or carried on with their daily routine despite being sick, said Gan.

SCIENCE PARK CLUSTER

Of the 14 confirmed cases at Wizlearn Technologies, nine were members of staff. Of these, three employees had continued with their daily activities despite being unwell. One of the staff members spread the coronavirus to a family contact, who also carried on with daily activities while symptomatic.

This resulted in four additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 who had not worked at Wizlearn Technologies, said the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH).

SAFRA JURONG CLUSTER

Of the cases linked to the private dinner function at SAFRA Jurong, one case who subsequently tested positive attended the function on February 15 despite feeling unwell.

This could have resulted in 18 additional confirmed cases among those who attended the dinner.

Of these 18 cases, 10 of them continued with their daily activities while feeling unwell, resulting in an additional 17 COVID-19 cases who had not attended the dinner, said MOH. This COVID-19 cluster is now the largest in Singapore, with 36 patients – many of them seniors – as of Monday. Authorities announced at the conference that activities for seniors organised by government agencies will be suspended for 14 days from today.

“Let me just say that the multi-ministry task force is now also assessing the situation locally as well as globally and is studying a broader range of social distancing measures that we might take to help further slow down the spread of the virus,” said Gan.

MOH also urged members of the public to refrain from doctor-hopping, so the same doctor can follow up with each case, and assess if a case needs to be tested for COVID-19. Of the 160 cases in Singapore, 24 per cent, or 38 cases, had visited more than one general practitioner (GP) clinic. Of these, eight cases had visited three or more GP clinics.

MOH said that its ability to carry out effective contact tracing requires the cooperation of individuals to provide comprehensive and truthful accounts about their activities when interviewed by its public officers – failing to do so would affect its ability to get in contact with others who may have been infected, delaying MOH’s ring-fencing of clusters. “This socially irresponsible behaviour poses a risk to all of us. The measures we have implemented will only work if individuals cooperate and behave in a socially responsible manner,” said Gan.