Singapore is fighting a new wave of infections: the import wave.
But there’s now a possibility that a “local cluster” might have arisen from the imported cases, and it’s not because someone serving SHN has decided to flee the hotel to take the public transport, and the MRT, unfortunately, broke down.
Because the cluster could’ve been in the very hotel he or she stayed in.
MOH Investigating 13 Imported Cases Who Could’ve Infected Each Other in SHN Hotel
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is investigating 13 cases of COVID-19 infection amongst individuals who had served Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at Mandarin Orchard Singapore (333 Orchard Road).
As a precautionary measure, Mandarin Orchard Singapore will stop accepting new guests with immediate effect.
Those currently serving SHN at the hotel will be moved to another SHN dedicated facility. The hotel has made arrangements to check out existing guests progressively. Restaurant and event spaces within the hotel will also be closed.
But how did they find out about this?
Apparently, the National Public Health Laboratory conducts whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis on all COVID-19 cases as part of routine laboratory surveillance. It takes about four weeks to culture the virus and complete the genome sequencing.
The 13 imported cases, who were confirmed between 2 November and 11 November to have COVID-19 infection, were observed to have high genetic similarity despite the cases having arrived from different countries, including Bahrain, Canada, Indonesia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Philippines, South Korea, UAE, UK and US.
Technically speaking, they should be slightly different since they’re all from different countries as the virus will mutate a little (very common for a virus to mutate).
This suggests that these cases were likely infected from a similar source…which means it could’ve been a cluster within the hotel.
Further investigations by MOH found that these 13 cases had served SHN at Mandarin Orchard Singapore between 22 October and 11 November 2020. Genome sequencing and analysis are continuing for cases beyond 11 November.
Epidemiological investigations were immediately initiated to determine if there is a potential link between these 13 cases, and to study if transmission could have occurred locally, and not from their country of origin.
But wait; didn’t they live separately?
Of course they do.
Persons on SHN are also not allowed to leave their rooms during their stay, and rooms are thoroughly disinfected and sanitised upon completion of SHN according to strict infection control measures. They will also not be allowed access to common facilities in the hotels.
Hotels used as SHN dedicated facilities must have in place strict protocols to segregate persons on SHN from all other guests. These include placing persons on SHN in segregated blocks, wings or floors, and ensuring their route of movement is clearly demarcated from other guests.
The Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Police Force conduct regular checks on these hotels to ensure that safe management measures are complied with, and that security measures are in place.
So how did this happen?
Investigations are still ongoing.
Precautionary Measures in the Hotel
As a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of all guests in the hotel, the hotel will check out all its occupants.
Persons serving SHN will be transported via dedicated vehicles to an alternative SHN dedicated facility.
Deep cleaning and disinfection will be carried out by the hotel, in consultation with MOH and the National Environment Agency.
MOH has commenced special testing operations to test around 500 staff of the hotel for COVID-19 infection. These include both staff serving those on SHN, and those who serve other guests in other parts of the hotel.
They will also test all who are currently serving SHN at Mandarin Orchard Singapore for COVID-19 infection to determine their status, instead of waiting till their SHN exit swab.
Guests who have stayed at Mandarin Orchard Singapore between 11 November and 19 December are advised to monitor their health closely for 14 days from their last date of stay, as the hotel is one of the approved hotels for staycations.
They should see a doctor promptly if they develop symptoms of acute respiratory infection (such as cough, sore throat and runny nose), as well as fever and loss of taste or smell, and inform the doctor of their exposure history.
The hotel has stopped taking in persons on SHN from 13 December as its contract to serve as a dedicated SHN facility will expire at the end of the month.
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