SINGAPORE, July 22 — The return to stricter Covid-19 restrictions from today (July 22) onwards is not due to the KTV cluster, but the one linked to the Jurong Fishery Port, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.
Writing on Facebook, the co-chair of the national task force for Covid-19 said that he had received “several valid queries” on why the Government has rolled back to Phase 2 (heightened alert) when it had earlier outlined plans for Singapore to live with the disease.
Questions were also raised on why everyone else should “pay for the mistakes of people who were irresponsible”, the minister noted.
“Like everyone, I am upset with the irresponsible behaviour of people in the KTV cluster, but it is not the reason for the reversion to Phase 2 (heightened alert),” he added, referring to regulations that will see social gathering sizes cut from five to two and dining in banned.
He said that the task force had initially thought that it could control the KTV cluster and therefore decided to keep food businesses open with the rule that five people could dine together if all are fully vaccinated.
While the numbers in the KTV cluster did come down in recent days, what caused the slide back to a stricter infection-control regime was the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, he said.
“Unfortunately, while our fishmongers and stall assistants were going about earning an honest living, they got infected at the port. As they went on to work at various markets around the island, many more cases in the community were seeded.”
There were 215 cases in the KTV cluster and 454 cases in the Jurong Fishery Port cluster as of yesterday.
Over the past weekend, the ministry uncovered clusters in wet markets and hawker centres, likely infected by fishmongers and stallholders who visited the Jurong Fishery Port, which has since been temporarily closed.
In an earlier Facebook post on Monday, Ong also said that the clusters at KTV nightclubs and Jurong Fishery Port have been found to be linked and the coronavirus strain appears to be closer to that detected among cases imported from Indonesia while differing from the Delta variant seen at two other outbreaks here.
Yesterday, he pointed out that markets are frequented by seniors, of whom many remain unvaccinated.
“This is most worrying, and we are at risk of an uncontrollable rise in cases, which could potentially result in many severe illnesses or even deaths. So we need to pre-emptively tighten up social activities.”
Ong said on Tuesday during a press conference by the task force that there were still about 200,000 seniors above 60 years old who have not received their vaccine shots.
In his Facebook post yesterday, he also addressed questions on why the authorities have suspended dining at eateries when there have been no cases detected in those settings.
“Unfortunately, it does not work like that,” he wrote, adding that allowing indoor dining at restaurants could “turbo charge” the Jurong Fishery Port cluster further.
“If five friends meet for dinner, each has five people at home, who in turn meet their friends in groups of five, we have a network of 125 connections for the virus to work itself through.”
Ong said that one positive development is that 50 per cent of Singapore’s population have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“It is a good rate but needs to go higher. This percentage will be going up by 1 percentage point every day.”
With the vaccination rate expected to be at 64 per cent or more in two weeks, this will put Singapore in “a much stronger and resilient position” when reviewing the rules, he said.
“We are so close to being in a much stronger and confident position. Given the gravity of the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, we felt it is not the time to risk it all now.
“It’s a frustrating situation, but I hope with my explanation, we understand why the measures are necessary.”
Ong’s Facebook post comes a day after several other government ministries addressed public concerns over the KTV cluster.
On Tuesday, the police and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment stressed in a joint statement that individual responsibility is more important than enforcement action in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
They also outlined enforcement checks on nightlife venues since such establishments were permitted to convert to food-and-beverage (F&B) businesses last October.
Earlier yesterday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and trade agency Enterprise Singapore also stressed that none of the establishments in the KTV cluster had received a government grant to help them pivot to other permissible activities such as F&B operations.
The agencies said that they released the statement to clarify comments and misperceptions about the recent breaches of Covid-19 safety regulations by illegal KTV clubs masquerading as F&B outlets that resulted in the spread of the disease. ― TODAY