SINGAPORE, Dec 20 (The Straits Times/ANN): Three people who are serving their stay-home notice (SHN) at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore have tested positive for Covid-19. It is likely these are imported cases and not linked to 13 other cases being investigated, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Sunday (Dec 20).
Additionally, serological tests conducted on three members of staff have come back positive, indicating likely past infections. Epidemiological investigations of these cases are in progress.
The cases were detected after guests serving SHN at the hotel were swabbed as part of measures taken after MOH launched a probe into 13 coronavirus cases among people who had previously served their SHN at Mandarin Orchard Singapore.
The 13 were suspected to have been infected after arriving here, as it was found that they had been infected by coronavirus strains that have "high genetic similarity", implying that the infections may have come from one source.
This is despite the fact that they had flown in from 10 different countries - such as the United States, South Korea, Britain, the Philippines and Bahrain.
In a press release, MOH said that 394 people serving SHN at the hotel have been swabbed, and 384 test results are ready, while 10 are pending. Of the results that are ready, 381 have come back negative for Covid-19.
The three guests who tested positive were immediately taken to hospital via ambulance. "As they have recent travel history, it is likely that these are imported, and have been included in today's (Sunday's) case count," said MOH.
"Nevertheless, the National Public Health Laboratory will conduct whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis to determine if they could be linked to the 13 cases. It takes about four weeks to culture the virus and complete the genome sequencing," it added.
So far, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for 158 staff of Mandarin Orchard Singapore have come back negative for Covid-19.
Mandarin Orchard Singapore has stopped accepting new guests since Saturday and is checking out existing guests progressively, MOH said. Individuals serving SHN at the hotel have been transported via dedicated vehicles to alternative SHN dedicated facilities.
The 13 cases being probed had all served their SHN in the same tower of the hotel between Oct 22 and Nov 11, and were confirmed to have Covid-19 between Nov 2 and 11.
This suggests that these cases were likely infected from a similar source, MOH and Singapore Tourism Board said in a joint statement on Saturday.
The incident has resulted in all hotel guests being progressively checked out, about 500 staff being tested for Covid-19, and the hotel being deep-cleaned and disinfected.
But experts said the matter is unlikely to spark a wave of infections here, given that more than a month has passed since they were confirmed to have Covid-19. That would have been enough for two incubation periods of 14 days each.
Meanwhile, there were 19 new coronavirus cases confirmed at noon on Sunday (Dec 20), all of which were imported.
The cases were already placed on stay-home notice or isolated on arrival in Singapore when they were tested, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
There were no new community cases and none from worker dormitories.
Sunday's cases take Singapore's total to 58,422. MOH said it is also working through the details of the cases reported on Sunday. .
With nine cases discharged on Saturday, 58,259 patients have fully recovered from the disease.
MOH said that the number of new cases in the community has remained low, with no new cases in the past week.
A total of 38 patients remain in hospital, with none in intensive care, and 62 patients are still recuperating in community facilities.
Singapore has had 29 deaths from Covid-19 complications, while 15 who tested positive have died of other causes.
Globally, the virus outbreak, which began in December last year, has infected more than 74.2 million people. More than 1.6 million people have died. - The Straits Times/Asian News Network