Rise in community cases 'not unexpected' with reopening, testing

Current number of cases yet to fully reflect effect of Phase Two, says Gan


IT is "not unexpected" that coronavirus cases in the community have gone up of late - and will continue to increase - as Singapore progresses further in Phase Two of its reopening and testing is expanded, said the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on Covid-19 at a virtual press conference on Thursday.

This comes as the number of community cases - including unlinked ones - has risen with the start of Phase Two, which started about two weeks ago.

The taskforce noted that in the past week, there has been an average of eight new community cases a day; of this number, an average of four a day are unlinked. This is an increase from around five community cases a day in the last week of Phase One, with about two a day being unlinked.

"This is not unexpected as more activities resume and the number of interactions increases. A similar trend can be observed in many other countries that have exited from lockdowns and restrictions," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

And the numbers are expected to continue to go up in the coming weeks, Mr Gan added. This is because it has only been about two weeks since Phase Two started; considering the virus' incubation period of two weeks and the time to detect and diagnose it, the current number of cases has yet to "fully reflect" the effect of Phase Two.

Also, many of the recent cases were picked up from the authorities' expanded testing strategy, under which tests are conducted more extensively among key groups in the community, such as those deemed vulnerable or who have a higher risk of exposure to Covid-19.

Still, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong noted that serology tests have shown some of the cases to be the result of recent infections.

With more activities and interactions in Phase Two, the risk of transmission and subsequent forming of clusters may be higher. Mr Wong urged the public to stay vigilant and uphold safe-distancing measures, so that the authorities may continue with a "progressive approach of resuming activities safely".

The taskforce also said it is still too early to discuss Phase 3 of Singapore's reopening or relaxing safe distancing rules.

The taskforce had previously said that it would take "months" before Singapore reaches the third and final stage of its phased reopening, when it will operate in a "steady state" before a vaccine is available.

On Thursday, the taskforce was also asked about a teacher from Nan Hua High School - one of the nomination centres for the ongoing elections - who had apparently been diagnosed with Covid-19 a day earlier.

Ministry of Health director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that epidemiological investigations and contact tracing are under way, and there is currently no information to suggest that the case has "any link or relationship" to the process of nomination or the elections.

"So at this time, we have not made any plans to adjust our recommendations to the Elections Department (ELD) concerning how safe distancing measures should be taken, but we'll continue to review the situation," he added.

And as to whether safe distancing measures have been complied with during the elections, Mr Wong said that ELD is mindful of it, and will put in place rules and requirements for safe elections and campaigning based on the national guidelines.