While Singapore has now had no community cases of Covid-19 in 1 week, we’re still getting imported cases by the busload every day.
More unnerving is the B117 variant, or “UK strain” of the virus, which is reportedly more infectious.
Though we’ve restricted arrivals from the United Kingdom to only Singaporeans and permanent residents, that nasty bug seems to have wormed its way in nonetheless.
So much so that we already have 25 confirmed cases of B117 here, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Of these, 5 of them are community cases, which may mean it’s circulating in the community.
The 1st case of the B117 strain in Singapore was imported.
Case 58504 is a 17-year-old female Singaporean who arrived home on 6 Dec. She had been studying in the UK since Aug.
Upon her return, she served her Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at a dedicated facility, and tested positive on 8 Dec.
Including that case, there are a total of 20 imported cases of B117, the MOH told Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
They all arrived in Singapore from Europe.
2 more Covid-19 cases possibly are of B117 too, but they haven’t officially been added into the count yet, as they’re still pending confirmation, the ministry added.
The 3 community cases will be more concerning to Singaporeans.
The 1st community case of B117 we detected was Case 59028, a 24-year-old Korean work permit holder who tested positive on 5 Jan.
He works at Azur restaurant at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.
The next day, his colleague, a 43-year-old Malaysian woman, also tested positive. She is Case 59059.
Although MOH initially said she wasn’t infected with the B117 strain, they put her down as having it on Friday (29 Jan), CNA reported.
As a precaution, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport shut down for 2 weeks.
However, a 3rd Azur staff subsequently came down with the B117 strain.
He’s Case 59084, a 20-year-old Singaporean, who’s a close contact of the Korean and did a similar job as him.
2 more community cases of B117 are a Singaporean married couple who’re both 39 years old.
According to an MOH press release on 16 Jan, Case 59340 works at the Singapore Scouts Association and handles mainly administrative work in the office. He’s also a part-time bus driver.
His wife is an administrative officer at OCBC Tampines Centre One who doesn’t interact with customers.
Both of them tested positive for Covid-19 on 15 Jan.
What’s interesting is that all 5 community cases could be linked.
The 3 who work in Azur are all obviously close contacts, but how are they linked to the Singaporean couple?
It turns out that Case 59028, the Korean man, was in Changi Airport Terminal 3 on 31 Dec from 7.48-8.49pm, according to an MOH press release on 26 Jan.
The Singaporean couple, on the other hand, were at Jewel Changi Airport on the same day, from 2.35-9.50pm.
That means they were near each other at the same time.
Thus, epidemiological investigations are being carried to find out if all 5 cases are linked, CNA quoted MOH as saying.
As a precaution, a special testing operation was conducted for all staff who have been working at Jewel Changi and Terminal 3 since 31 Dec.
This was also extended to those working at all shops and F&B outlets at the terminal.
In an update on Friday (29 Jan), MOH said 409 staff were tested in total.
Happily, all of them tested negative for Covid-19.
The testing of the Jewel and T3 staff was an example of MOH’s active case finding operations that aim to detect and ringfence cases early.
As no more new cases have emerged from the 5 community cases thus far, MOH told CNA that it hoped its efforts have prevented further infections.
As for the potentially more transmissible South Africa variant, no cases have been found in Singapore so far.
While it’s scary that the B117 has already made its way to our shores, hopefully the early detection and quick action has prevented it from spreading further in the community.
As for the imported cases, let’s hope there have been no leaks while they were in SHN.
In the meantime, do continue to remain vigilant and observe the usual safe distancing measures and proper hygiene.
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Featured image adapted from MS News.
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