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Enhancing Surveillance and Enforcement Efforts to Keep COVID-19 at Bay

                 Singapore is five weeks into Phase Two of re-opening. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation, and take aggressive actions to prevent, detect and contain local transmissions. While the number of community cases remains low, we must remain vigilant and play our part to reduce the spread of infection by exercising social responsibility and adhering to safe management measures.

Stepping up Surveillance for Early Detection

2.               The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been stepping up its surveillance, active case finding and containment efforts, in order to detect and ringfence cases of infection as early as possible. Besides placing close contacts of confirmed cases under quarantine, we also test them at the start and end of their quarantine period to allow us to pick up infection cases early. Where infection clusters arise, we undertake swift action to quarantine and test close contacts, mount swab operations, and suspend operations at the relevant facility if deemed necessary.

3.               Over the past months, we have conducted seven such swab operations associated with newly emergent workplace clusters, such as Keppel Shipyard and Northpoint City. In all, more than 1,300 workers from these two workplaces were tested. Two positive cases were uncovered, in addition to six who were tested as persons under quarantine as a result of their close contact with the confirmed cases.

4.               Beyond the workplaces, we also launched swab operations to test individuals at retail premises frequented by multiple positive cases. We recently tested close to 60 staff of Sheng Siong supermarket at New World Centre and over 40 staff at Haniffa supermarket at Dunlop Street and none tested positive. We also placed 58 households residing at Block 111 Tampines Street 11 under phone surveillance and facilitated COVID-19 testing for them and their visitors, as a precautionary measure after there were confirmed cases in two households residing at the block. So far, no new cases were detected.

5.               We have also been stepping up our general surveillance efforts, and have been using a combination of different testing methods to pick up any early signals of emerging clusters. The National Environment Agency (NEA)’s waste-water testing allows us to monitor the situation in densely populated residential premises. Currently implemented at 34 workers dormitories, waste-water surveillance provides continuous monitoring and supports our national effort in the prevention and control of COVID-19 transmission in the dormitories. NEA has started to trial waste-water monitoring in other settings and is planning to progressively expand such surveillance to include more workers’ dormitories and other populous living quarters such as nursing homes and hostels.

6.               Singaporeans must also play their part in keeping our families and community safe. Since 1 July, we have been testing individuals who are diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI) at first presentation to a doctor. This will allow us to detect infected individuals early, and allow us to take the appropriate measures early to stem further transmission. As clinical and scientific evidence shows that an infected person is most infectious right before and immediately after the start of symptoms, it is critical that everyone seeks care and treatment early, and not delay or avoid seeing a doctor when they are unwell.  Amongst the recent cases, there have been instances where individuals continued to go out despite coming down with fever or respiratory symptoms. We must all do our part to stop such behaviours as they will put our family, friends and colleagues at risk of infection.

Measures to Enhance Safe Distancing at Hotspots

7.               Under Phase Two of re-opening, we have observed crowding and poor adherence to safe distancing (SD) measures at some hotspots. These include popular night spots, beaches, selected malls and parks, as well as in HDB towns. For example, in recent weekends, crowds were observed at selected stretches of the beach at East Coast Park, with many in groups of more than five individuals and without proper safe distancing.

8.               Agencies will put in place enhanced crowd control measures at these hotspots.  In particular, we will temporarily close off access to popular public spaces such as parks and beaches as they approach capacity limits to better manage people flows. Carparks serving these popular hotspots may also be selectively closed.

9.               Agencies will also step up enforcement, and will take firm action against SD breaches by both individuals and businesses, especially at hotspots where the risks of transmission is greater. Over the last weekend, the National Parks Board issued over 100 fines to individuals who failed to adhere to SD measures at gardens, parks and nature reserves. Businesses are also expected to ensure compliance with proper safe management measures, including SD measures. Over the last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) issued suspension notices and fines against two F&B establishments – “Try Again” and “Los Amigos” – along Circular Road, a popular night spot, for continuing to breach measures despite earlier warnings.

10.           We will continue to monitor the situation and implement stricter enforcement measures should the crowds persist at these popular hotspots and safe distancing is not properly observed. Everyone must behave responsibly, and have a good understanding of the risks of infection in crowded and close spaces, so that we can avoid a resurgence of cases as has been observed in many other countries with the resumption of more activities.

Last Stretch of Migrant Worker Dormitories Clearance

11.           The Inter-agency Taskforce (ITF) is close to completing the dormitory clearance. In particular, we expect all the dormitories to be cleared by the beginning of August 2020, with the exception of 17 standalone blocks in eight Purpose Built Dormitories (PBDs), which serve as quarantine facilities. This means that all the migrant workers in the dormitories would be cleared by then, except for 28,000 workers still serving out their isolation period in the various quarantine facilities.

12.           This last batch of workers come from dormitories with a relatively high prevalence of COVID-19, and will be subject to a final test before they complete their isolation periods. We therefore expect the daily case counts to be high for the coming two weeks, before tapering down thereafter.

13.           With all the dormitories and the vast majority of migrant workers cleared by the beginning of August 2020, we will also follow-up with the companies, especially the contractors, to get ready to resume work soon.

Social Responsibility is Key

14.           It is critical that we continue to stay disciplined and vigilant, and not let complacency undermine all our past efforts. We need everyone to observe safe distancing as we carry on with our daily activities, and seek medical attention early if unwell. All of us must play our part to keep our loved ones and our community safe.

24 JULY 2020

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