As Singapore resumes more economic and social activities, we must remain vigilant and maintain safe distancing measures. As part of an expanded testing strategy, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has stepped up surveillance and contact tracing of community cases in June.

Close monitoring and aggressive ring-fencing of community cases

In the week of end June, there has been an average of 8 new community cases a day, of which an average of 4 cases a day are unlinked. This is an increase of about 5 community cases a day from the last week of Phase One, with about 2 a day being unlinked.

Many of these cases are picked up from MOH’s expanded testing strategy, which involves more extensive testing among key population groups in the community, particularly those who are deemed vulnerable or have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.

With the re-opening of Singapore’s borders to facilitate travel, MOH has started testing incoming travellers before the end of their Stay-Home Notice period.

In addition, MOH has expanded its testing strategy to include all individuals aged 13 and above who are diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) at first presentation to a doctor.

Once cases are identified, MOH will use a combination of technology tools such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry, as well as professional judgment, to conduct contract tracing rapidly and quarantine close contacts. Over time, the speed to isolation has improved, and the average time taken between identification of case to the issuance of a quarantine order to close contacts is now less than a day.

To ring-fence and prevent further spread, MOH also tests all close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community, at the start and end of their quarantine period.

Management of Cases at 111 Tampines Street 11

MOH’s early detection and case finding efforts have helped to quickly pick up and ring-fence cases. One example is MOH’s management of the cases at Block 111 Tampines Street 11, where a 66-year old Singapore male who works at a dormitory was identified to be a positive case on 23 June.

As part of contact tracing, six of his household members were subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Separately, on 27 June, a 15 year-old female Singaporean residing in the same block reported sick and was confirmed to be tested positive for COVID-19. One of her household members also tested positive for COVID-19 as part of contact tracing.

Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to establish if the cases across these two households are linked. However, as a precautionary measure, MOH has placed the 58 households residing within the same section of the block as the two households with confirmed cases under active phone surveillance and is facilitating COVID-19 testing for them and their visitors. Other households within the same block do not need to be tested as they do not share the same set of lifts and stairwell.

Staying vigilant

With the resumption of more activities under Phase Two, we must expect the number of cases to increase. Strong safe management measures, safe distancing measures and strict infection control measures must be carried out by everyone to reduce COVID-19 spread. We should use the TraceTogether and SafeEntry applications to facilitate contact tracing and quickly see a doctor if respiratory symptoms surface. With continued vigilance and everyone’s collective effort, we can keep COVID-19 under control while we continue to resume activities safely.