SINGAPORE: Five cases of COVID-19 in the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) cluster were found to have an Indian variant of the virus, Ministry of Health (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Tuesday May 4.
Speaking at a COVID-19 multi-ministerial task force press conference, Assoc Prof Mak said seven cases in three local clusters presented with the B16172 (Indian) variant of the virus.
In addition to the five cases at TTSH, one case with variant B16172 is the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer deployed to Changi Airport Terminal 1, and the other case is the cleaner deployed to a facility. of community care in Tuas Sud.
Viruses in each cluster are “phylogenetically distinct,” suggesting that the clusters are not related to each other, the MOH said.
“Based on the first phylogenetic information we have, the cluster (TTSH) is due to a viral variant, but the vaccine appears to have worked relatively well against it,” said Prof Assoc Mak.
READ: 5 more COVID-19 cases linked to TTSH cluster, 12 new infections imported
VIRUS VARIANT REPORTS IN SINGAPORE
As of Monday, 29 local cases were identified as being infected with “variants of interest or variants of concern,” Prof Assoc Mak said. A total of 475 imported cases are detected with overseas variants.
Assistant Professor Mak said Singapore can expect to see “more viral variants” identified over time, and all necessary public health measures have been taken to isolate and contain the cases.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the working group, said: “The new variant strains have higher attack rates, they are more contagious, they cause larger clusters than before.”
Assoc Prof Mak added that “the presence of viral variants of concern among our local cases confirms” Singapore’s vaccination strategy which has prioritized healthcare workers and older Singaporeans.
If Singapore had not done so, the TTSH cluster would have been “much bigger”, said Prof Assoc Mak.
UPDATE ON TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL CLUSTER
The TTSH-linked cluster continued to grow, with a total of 40 cases linked to it on Tuesday, making it the largest COVID-19 cluster currently active.
Providing an update on the hospital group, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said testing of all hospital patients at the hospital has been completed.
“The results have all been negative, apart from those we have already announced. Yesterday, we completed a second round of tests on these hospitalized patients, and the results are pending, ”he added.
READ: A timeline of the COVID-19 cluster at Tan Tock Seng Hospital
“Some of them may be incubating and turning positive in the coming days, and we will continue to monitor them.”
Testing of the 12,000 campus staff is also underway. So far, around 10,000 employees have completed the tests.
“We will do an update, as when the results are released,” Mr. Gan said.
“Our goal is to leave no stone unturned and to do our best to detect infected cases as early as possible.
Surveillance tests are also underway for visitors to the hospital or for those who have visited places that other cases had visited while they were contagious.
He noted that other institutions in the health system are mobilizing to ensure continuity of care for TTSH patients.
“We are also preparing the health system for any potential increase in community cases, for the emergence of new clusters. We hope that will not happen, but we must prepare for it, ”he added.
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