SINGAPORE — Singapore has confirmed three more cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant identified in the UK.
The cases, all community infections that were previously reported, tested positive for the new B.1.1.7 strain based on whole-genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis conducted by the National Public Health Laboratory, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on Tuesday (26 January).
They include a 24-year-old Korean man, a work permit holder who works at Azur at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, who was confirmed to have COVID-19 on 5 January and had tested preliminarily positive for the B.1.1.7 strain. His job entails delivering pre-packed meals to aircrew and hotel guests. He does not interact with diners at Azur.
The other two cases are a 39-year-old Singaporean man, a worker at Singapore Scouts Association, who was confirmed to have COVID-19 on 15 January, and his 39-year-old Singaporean spouse, an administrative officer at OCBC Tampines Centre One, who was confirmed to be infected on the same day.
The Singaporean man also works as a part-time bus driver with Westpoint Transit who plies specific routes for Cameron (Singapore) and GlaxoSmithKline Tuas.
Epidemiological investigations revealed that the Singaporean man and his spouse had visited Jewel Changi Airport on 31 December last year between 2.35pm and 9.50pm, while the Korean man was at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on the same day between 7.48pm and 8.49pm.
The MOH said it will, as a precautionary measure, commence a special operation to offer testing for staff who have been working from 31 December at Jewel Changi Airport, and at the shops and food establishments that are open to the public at Changi Airport Terminal 3.
Authorities confirmed Singapore’s first case of the B.1.1.7 strain on 23 December last year, as well as 11 others who have tested preliminarily positive for the strain. Authorities had then said that they were performing viral genomic sequencing for dozens of COVID-19 cases who had arrived from Europe.
A week later, authorities confirmed that two more cases – both imported – tested preliminarily positive for the UK strain.
The B.1.1.7 variant, while not the first of the virus to emerge, is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than others.
UK authorities have said that in addition to being more contagious, the UK variant “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality”.
The strain has spread to at least 60 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Singapore confirmed 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, taking the country’s total case count to 59,366.
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