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Keeping Our Guard Up To Avoid Resurgence Of Cases

               The Multi-Ministry Taskforce has been closely monitoring the global and local COVID-19 situation. Several countries are experiencing a resurgence of cases after a general resumption of activities. There are useful lessons to be learnt from their experiences, in particular the key drivers of infection, to inform our strategies to control the infection locally. Even as we gradually resume travel corridors, we will continue to assess the risk, and have strict border controls to prevent community transmission from imported cases.

2.             We continue to take aggressive actions to detect and ring-fence local transmissions. Our testing for those diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) [1] has scaled up significantly over the past few weeks, which has helped to pick up new cases. They are an important indicator of underlying community spread. While the number of unlinked current infections in the community remains low, everyone must play their part and exercise social responsibility. Continued vigilance and adherence to safe management measures on everyone’s part remains important to reduce the spread of infection and protect our loved ones.

Global Cases Continue to Rise; Some Countries Experiencing Resurgence

3.             Globally, there are now more than 13 million reported COVID-19 cases and more than 500,000 deaths. Many countries such as the United States and Brazil are still reporting large surges in case numbers. Several countries are experiencing a resurgence of cases and have been reporting large clusters following a period of low to no cases.

4.             There are useful lessons to draw from these overseas experiences, especially on the efficacy of safe management measures and potential gaps that could have led to infection outbreaks. For instance, there were cases in Israel and Victoria (Australia) that were attributed to non-compliance to social distancing measures (e.g. going out when unwell, organising large parties). Clusters had also been observed in Hong Kong due to reported falling compliance to mask-wearing in restaurants and cafes. There are also useful reminders of the inherent risk in settings where there is close, prolonged contact among individuals. For example, South Korea reported clusters in religious gatherings at churches/temples and in workplaces, while both South Korea and Tokyo (Japan) reported clusters traced to night-life establishments.

5.             We cannot afford to be complacent in Singapore, especially after we have resumed most activities after a long circuit breaker period. Experts have advised that COVID-19 can be transmitted through very small water droplets, which are released when speaking, coughing or sneezing. Everyone is reminded that they should have their masks on and wear them properly when outside of their homes, except when eating or drinking or exercising. For those who are not feeling well or for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and persons with concurrent medical conditions, it is also advisable to wear medical masks or reusable masks with better filtration capabilities, like the recent ones that the government has distributed to all Singaporeans.Everyone should continue to avoid crowds, especially in enclosed spaces. Even though we are no longer in the Circuit Breaker period, everyone is encouraged to keep their social circles constant, and continue to interact through non-physical means as much as possible. Individuals should not gather in groups of more than 5 to minimise risk of transmission and large clusters forming. Every step taken towards reducing the risk of spread, goes a long way towards keeping our community and loved ones safe.

Maintain Strict Border Controls

6.             We will adjust our border controls, in line with the COVID-19 situation abroad and the assessed risk of importation from arriving travellers. Given the resurgence of cases in these regions [2], travellers entering Singapore after 19 July 2020, 2359 hours, who have recent travel history, including transit, to Victoria (Australia); Japan; and Hong Kong within the last 14 days will be required to serve their Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at dedicated SHN facilities instead of their own place of residence. They will also need to undergo a COVID-19 test before they end their SHN as is the current requirement.

7.             All travellers who left Singapore from 27 March 2020 despite the prevailing travel advisory, and travellers who are not Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents are required to pay for their stay at dedicated SHN facilities.

8.             As the global situation evolves, we will continue to update our border measures. Travellers planning to enter Singapore should be prepared to be subjected to the prevailing border measures upon entry, including payment for their stay at dedicated SHN facilities where applicable.

9.             The Multi-Ministry Taskforce continues to work on all fronts, to protect against the various sources of risk in our vulnerable segments, at the workplace, in schools, religious venues, and our border controls.

Community Cases Remain Elevated; However Unlinked ARI Community Cases Are in Low Single-Digits

10.             In the past week, we have seen an average of around 12 new community cases a day, similar to the figures in the first week of July. Around half of the community cases over the past two weeks are linked. We continue to actively test close contacts of confirmed cases to ring-fence possible onward transmissions, and regularly test targeted groups [3] to help us detect unlinked cases in the community. Of the unlinked cases, about 7 in 10 were asymptomatic, and almost half are likely to be past infections as they tested positive under serology tests.

11.             The remaining cases in the community continue to be in the low single digits. We have significantly scaled up testing of those with ARI symptoms at first presentation, and are now testing around 2,400 ARI cases a day on average. We monitor the cases closely, as it is an indicator of underlying transmissions in the community. At this point, the prevalence in the community remains low, but we will continue to be vigilant as undetected cases can easily lead to clusters. Apart from the early detection and isolation measures that are in place, individuals should also use the TraceTogether and SafeEntry applications to facilitate contact tracing and help protect their loved ones, and see a doctor if they are not feeling well.

Update on Progress of Clearance of Dormitories

12.             The Inter-agency Taskforce (ITF) is continuing efforts to systematically test and clear workers and dormitories. As of 16 July 2020, around 232,000 workers have either recovered, or have been tested to be free from the virus. The ITF is in the final stretch of this work, and expects to complete the testing of all workers by mid-August.

13.             We continue to expedite the safe resumption of work for all of the migrant workers in the dormitories. There are presently workers who have recovered from COVID-19 and are ready to return to work. However, they currently cannot do so as some residents in their dormitories/blocks are still serving their isolation. In consultation with the Ministry of Health, the ITF has put in place additional decontamination measures to allow these recovered workers to leave the dormitories to resume work safely, without compromising public health. This will be implemented progressively over the next week. Employers will be able to check the AccessCode details of their workers through the Safe@Work eService on the Ministry of Manpower’s website.

Staying Vigilant  

14.             As we resume more activities under Phase Two, we must double down on our efforts to control the spread of the virus. We strongly encourage anyone who is not feeling well to go see a doctor, who is best placed to provide clinical assessment including whether testing is needed as a safeguard and precaution, so that cases can be detected early. Through everyone’s collective efforts, we can keep COVID-19 under control while we progressively resume activities safely.


17 JULY 2020

[1] For those aged 13 and above.

[2] Sources: Victoria State Department of Health and Human Services; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan; Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (as of 17 Jul).
[3] Community testing includes active surveillance testing of targeted groups who are more vulnerable or have higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. In this regard, we have been conducting regular testing of workers who returned to work in the construction, marine and process sectors, and workers supporting our frontline COVID-19 operations.

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