Singapore widens mandatory testing area to contain virus cluster

Healthcare workers check the identity of residents at the entrance to a mandatory Covid-19 test site ion the Bukit Merah area of Singapore, on Monday (June 21, 2021). - Bloomberg

SINGAPORE, June 21 (Bloomberg: Singaporean authorities found 13 new coronavirus cases locally, as the government widened mandatory testing in a large neighborhood outside the city center where a cluster has been expanding since mid-June.

More residents and housing blocks in the Redhill neighborhood will have to get tested as viral fragments were found in waste water samples collected from the area, the Health Ministry said, raising concerns of an undetected spread. The move comes as five out of the 13 cases on Monday were untraceable, government data showed.

Singapore has been pursuing a strategy of ringfencing clusters with aggressive testing as the authorities remain cautious over the loosening of restrictions. The government has said vaccination rates are still not high enough to warrant a faster reopening in Singapore, although it has achieved a key threshold of inoculating more than half of its population with a first dose.

The cluster that emerged from the market and food center in the Redhill area is now the largest in Singapore with 73 infections, according to data on Sunday (june 20).

The government said on Friday that about half of the people found to be infected at the time were not vaccinated.

"We are adjusting our reopening plans in light of the latest outbreak, ” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-leads the country’s virus taskforce, said in a recent Facebook post. Singapore is "treading a careful way forward” so as to "to buy us time to speed up vaccinations, ” he added.

Since Monday, dining-in has resumed in groups of up to two people -- instead of five as previously planned. Group sizes will likely be raised to five from mid-July, barring any superspreader events or big clusters. - Bloomberg

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