SINGAPORE: Five COVID-19 cases in the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) cluster have been found to have an Indian variant of the virus, said the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak on Tuesday (May 4).
Speaking at a press conference by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, Assoc Prof Mak said seven cases in three local clusters have the B16172 (Indian) variant of the virus.
Besides the five cases at TTSH, one case with the B16172 variant is the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer deployed at Changi Airport Terminal 1, and the other case is the cleaner deployed at a community care facility at Tuas South.
The viruses in each cluster are “phylogenetically distinct”, which suggests that the clusters are not linked to one another, said the MOH.
“Based on the early phylogenetic information available to us, the (TTSH) cluster is due to a viral variant, but the vaccine appears to have done relatively well against it,” said Assoc Prof Mak.
REPORTS OF VIRUS VARIANTS IN SINGAPORE
As of Monday, 29 local cases were identified to be infected with “variants of interest, or variants of concern”, said Assoc Prof Mak. A total of 475 imported cases are detected with overseas variants.
Assoc Prof Mak said Singapore can expect to see “more viral variants” identified over time, and that all necessary public health action has been taken to isolate and ringfence the cases.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the task force, said: “The new variant strains have higher attack rates, they are more infectious, they are causing larger clusters than before.”
Assoc Prof Mak added that the “presence of viral variants of concern among our local cases affirms” Singapore’s vaccination strategy that prioritised healthcare workers and older Singaporeans.
Had Singapore not done so, the TTSH cluster would have been “significantly larger”, Assoc Prof Mak said.
UPDATE ON TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL CLUSTER
The cluster linked to TTSH has continued to grow, with a total of 40 cases linked to it as of Tuesday, making it the largest active COVID-19 cluster currently.
Providing an update on the hospital cluster, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said testing of all inpatients at the hospital has been completed.
“The results have all been negative, other than those whom we have already announced. Yesterday, we completed a second round of testing of these inpatients, and the results are pending,” he added.
“Some of them may be incubating, and may become positive in the days ahead, and we will continue to monitor them.”
Testing of all 12,000 staff members on campus is also in progress. So far, about 10,000 employees have completed testing.
“We will give an update, as in when the results are out,” said Mr Gan.
“Our aim is to leave no stone unturned and try our best to find infected cases as early as possible.
Surveillance testing is also ongoing for visitors to the hospital, or those who had visited places that other cases had visited while they were infectious.
He noted that other institutions in the healthcare system are stepping up to ensure continuity of care for TTSH patients.
“We are also preparing the healthcare system for any potential rise in community cases, an emerge emergence of new clusters. We hope it will not happen, but we must be prepared for it,” he added.