28-Year-Old Migrant Worker Likely To Be Singapore’s 1st Case Of Covid-19 Reinfection

When someone tests positive for Covid-19, it’s likely one of the worst experiences of their lives, even if they’re asymptomatic.

A silver lining would be that you get immunity from the virus after recovery — or will you?

A migrant worker in Singapore has thrown that theory into doubt, as he’s likely been infected with Covid-19 for a 2nd time.

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His 1st infection was confirmed on 12 Apr 2020, and he’s tested positive again almost 10 months after, on 25 Jan.

Migrant worker is 1st case of likely Covid-19 reinfection in Singapore

In their daily Covid-19 update for Saturday (6 Feb), the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced 26 new Covid-19 cases but none in the community.

Later on at night, they highlighted “the 1st case of likely Covid-19 reinfection in Singapore”.

MOH regularly monitors migrant workers who have recovered, to determine their immunity after being infected.

Thus, the case was undergoing rostered testing and was identified from there.

Lives in Tuas dorm

The case in question is a 28-year-old male Bangladeshi national. The Work Permit holder lives in a dormitory on 43 Tech Park Crescent.

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After he tested positive during the testing, his close contacts were all isolated and placed on quarantine, MOH said.

They have all tested negative for Covid-19 so far.

1st infection was on 12 Apr

The 1st time the man tested positive for Covid-19 was on 12 Apr last year, MOH said.

He was deemed as Case 2513, and recovered within weeks.

From Jun onwards, he tested negative for the virus. However, that was unfortunately not the end of his story with Covid-19.

Covid-19 reinfection of migrant worker on 25 Jan

From 22-23 Jan, he reported feeling unwell. Apart from that, he didn’t show any symptoms of the disease.

However, on 25 Jan, he tested positive for Covid-19 — almost 10 months after the confirmation of his 1st infection.

Medics conducted “numerous repeat tests” on him, MOH said. They all came out positive.

He was finally sent to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) to be warded.

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It’s not certain whether he was given a new case number or not. MOH didn’t report any new dormitory case on Saturday (5 Feb).

Reinfection is rare, says MOH

MOH says reinfection of Covid-19 is rare.

Perhaps that’s why the ministry declared that the worker had likely been reinfected only after consulting experts from the NCID, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), and the National Public Health Laboratory.

The experts, in turn, identified the likely reinfection after assessing clinical and laboratory evidence.

Apr 2020 & Jan 2021 infections are genetically distinct

One of the reasons for saying that it’s a likely reinfection is the genetic makeup of the infections.

The virus that was linked to the outbreak in migrant worker dorms from April last year had a certain genetic signature.

However, the virus detected in the man’s samples in Jan 2021 seems to be genetically different compared to last year’s.

Thus, this suggests that his current infection is “different and new”, MOH said.

Increase in his antibody levels

Another reason is more complex: It pertains to his “antibody titres”, or the amount of antibodies in a blood sample.

Together with his positive Covid-19 test, MOH said,

there was a corresponding marked increase in antibody titres compared to the period prior to the likely re-infection.

This suggests that his antibody levels had been increased by a new infection.

Immunity of recovered workers to be monitored

MOH said there’s no indication that the immunity of recovered workers living in dorms will go down significantly.

However, the ministry said it will continue monitoring recovered workers closely.

This is so that their post-infection immunity can be determined.

Wishing the worker a speedy recovery

Frankly, when one is infected with Covid-19, 1 time is enough.

Thus, we can’t imagine how the migrant worker must be feeling about the reinfection.

Scientists are still trying to find out more about the virus, but if post-infection immunity really is a thing, perhaps they should also try to find out how long one can be immune for.

We wish the worker a speedy recovery once again.

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