As of now, there are 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to the private dinner function that happened at the Joy Garden Restaurant in SAFRA Jurong on 15 February, resulting in it becoming the second-largest cluster in Singapore.
And for your reference, these are the local clusters so far:
- Grace Assembly of God + The Life Church and Missions Singapore = 29 cases
- SAFRA Jurong private dinner = 17 cases
- Wizlearn Technologies = 14 cases
- Yong Thai Hang shop = 9 cases
- Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site = 5 cases
- Grand Hyatt Singapore = 3 cases (more overseas)
So you probably have a few questions, like how did it all happen? Why are the cases only emerging now? Did Safra Jurong not notice that they were letting in people who were probably already infected? Have the others who attended the event been identified? Are they going to be quarantined?
Don’t worry, because you can find all of that out in this article.
The Private Event
The private dinner function was held at the Joy Garden Restaurant in Safra Jurong on 15 February – a Saturday.
It is not known as to how many people attended the dinner but investigations are currently ongoing to identify all those who had been in close contact with the individuals who have tested positive for the infection.
According to Associate Professor Vernon Lee, director of communicable diseases at MOH, the private social event was a sit-down dinner and it was organised by a few people for their friends and other family members.
Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at MOH, said that the people occupied more than one table, and they were moving around the private function room throughout dinner.
Of the 17 cases that have been reported, some of them had not actually been to the event themselves, but rather, are family members of those who attended the event, and as a result, they got infected too.
The reason why it took “some time” to find out how the infected people in the cluster were linked was that a lot of recording, investigations of the movements of the infected people and contact tracing had to be carried out.
It was only after all of that, that they were able to finally pinpoint the private dinner function at Safra Jurong as the common activity that the patients had participated in.
After all, it’s not like you can just take a coronavirus out from a patient and ask, “Eh where you from ah?”
Assoc Prof Mak said, “That takes time. And this explains why it is taking so long to establish the various people involved, to also make a diagnosis on these individuals as well.”
Investigations and contact tracing are still ongoing, and Assoc Prof Mak warned that there may be even more cases linked to this cluster that will emerge over the next couple of days.
Why Are Some Cases Only Emerging Now?
Well, here’s why.
According to Assoc Prof Mak, quite a few of the cases from the Safra Jurong cluster only got themselves checked out “days after they were symptomatic”.
Even though they had respiratory symptoms, some of the infected people still continued with normal daily activities, socialising and going to work.
“We’ve always been telling members of the public that if you are sick, please don’t mix around, (don’t) continue with your social activities (or) work activities. If you are sick, see a doctor early and isolate.”
I guess this is why so many of us prefer to stock up on masks and wear them to protect ourselves from those who are sick, right?
As you can see, when these people disregard the advice and warnings by health officials, it becomes much harder to curb the spread of the infection and it “exposes other people who otherwise would have been well to the COVID-19 infection.”
“And this thus makes our task even more challenging in trying to identify who the close contacts might be, and then isolating them and putting them on surveillance.”
Assoc Prof Lee agreed with what Assoc Prof Mak said, and added, “It is all a cluster, as a result of someone symptomatic who went for the event. So, as long as people adhere to these social responsibilities and don’t go around when they are ill, then we can see that this entire incident would not have happened.”
I guess another example would be the 61-year-old South Korean woman, also known as the Crazy Ajumma, who despite having symptoms such as a sore throat and fever, continued to attend church sessions at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the south-eastern city of Daegu. She even roamed freely and continued to go for social gatherings. She ended up causing hundreds to be infected with COVID-19. Worst of all? She initially refused to be tested for the virus.
So for those who have been identified to be close contacts of infected patients, are they going to be quarantined?
Assoc Prof Lee said no, “those who were well throughout would not have been quarantined because they had already passed that 14-day exposure period.”
He only said that those who feel unwell should go to the hospital for checks.
Other Patients Linked To The Cluster
Other than the nine new cases that were announced yesterday, there are eight more cases linked to the Safra Jurong cluster.
Case 96 is a Year 1 Raffles Institution student who was confirmed to have the infection on 27 February.
He is linked to Case 94, his family member who is a 64-year-old Singaporean woman. She fell ill on 11 February and only saw a doctor at a general practitioner (GP) clinic on 17 February, and again on 20 February. She was later referred to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after seeing the GP again on 24 February. She was immediately warded in an isolation room and was confirmed to have the virus on the afternoon of 25 February.
She is then linked to Case 112, a 62-year-old Singaporean woman who works as an assistant cook at Creative O Preschoolers’ Bay located at International Business Park in Jurong. She reportedly became unwell on 21 February, a few hours into her work shift. She immediately went to see a doctor and was placed on medical leave. She has not gone back to the pre-school ever since.
Case 94, 96 and 112 have not travelled to affected countries or regions recently.
Case 107 is a 68-year-old Singaporean woman who was in Jakarta, Indonesia from 11 February to 14 February.
Case 117 is a 52-year-old Singaporean woman who was in Malaysia on 1 March.
The other cases linked to the cluster are Cases 114, 115 and 116 who were confirmed on Thursday.
Confused? Yeah, that’s why it took some time to link them.
Safra Jurong’s Precautionary Measures
In case you think that Safra Jurong was wrong for not detecting the patients earlier by having precautionary measures, they did put out a statement on Thursday saying that all visitors had their temperatures checked and had to declare their recent travel history and provide contact details.
These measures were in place in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Other measures include increased cleaning and disinfection of facilities.
Safra said, “They did not have fever or exhibited any flu-like symptoms. They also did not have any recent travel history to mainland China within the past 14 days of their visit to the club as stated within their declaration.”
Safra also took to Facebook on Friday to say that the restaurant and all other possible areas which might have been visited by the infected individuals will be “thoroughly cleaned and disinfected again starting (6 March)”.
They also notified patrons through another post that their restaurant will be closed from 6 to 12 March.
The lesson to be learned from this is to see a doctor once you feel like you are starting to get ill. No money? No problem; there are Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) all over Singapore whereby you’d only be charged a flat fee of $10.
You can find the nearest PHPC here.
Also, the moment you display any symptoms of flu or have any respiratory symptoms, you should avoid social gatherings and minimise contact with others.
Immediately call up your GP clinic to inform them of what you are feeling, as well as declare your recent travel history so that they can take the precautionary measures when you arrive for your appointment.
Meanwhile, please remember to wash your hands with soap and avoid touching your face with your hands.
Stay safe, everyone.
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