Singapore — seen as a success model in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic — is reporting its biggest number of new cases in a single day, doubling its infection count over the past week as an outbreak at dormitories housing foreign workers intensifies.
A record 728 new infections were reported late Thursday, bringing the total in the past seven days to 2,517. The island has a total of 4,427 cases since the infections broke out earlier this year, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
Of those affected by Covid-19 so far, six in 10 lived in dorms, the data showed. That ratio is expected to change quickly, with these tightly packed living facilities housing thousands of foreign workers becoming Singapore’s latest challenge in its fight to contain the spread.
Among the cases on Thursday, these workers — coming from countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan — made up nine in 10 of new infections reported, a trend that has emerged in the past week. Authorities have moved to isolate the clusters.
The number of new cases among workers “residing in dormitories has increased significantly, in line with our continued efforts to actively test and isolate the infected workers,” the ministry said in its statement. Workers in about 20 dorms have been affected by outbreak, according to a government data compiled by Bloomberg.
It also threw a spanner into the city’s containment strategy, where it had earlier resisted a lockdown with a stabilizing of infections elsewhere across the country. Before imposing its version of a shutdown — called a “circuit breaker” — more than a week ago, it had tightened entry rules for travelers and poured billions of dollars into the economy.
Foreign workers have helped Singapore build its public housing towns, mass transit lines, airports and ports, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post Thursday. They also work through midnight shifts in factories, and take care of the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes, he said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Singapore households depend on domestic workers from neighboring countries,” Lee said. “We will work with them, especially those living in the dorms, to see through this difficult period.”
A total of 10 people have died in Singapore from the coronavirus. Imported cases — those that were infected overseas or visitors traveling to the city-state — have been cut to zero in the past week, while daily numbers of community spread have largely leveled off in the last two weeks. Globally, infections have topped 2.1 million and deaths exceeded 140,000.
Close to 80% of Singapore’s workforce is now working from home as the country enters its second week of “circuit-breaker” measures, including the closure of schools and most workplaces. –Bloomberg
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