Bangladeshi worker is Singapore’s first likely case of COVID-19 reinfection

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·2-min read
SINGAPORE - JANUARY 10: People wearing protective masks wait to cross a street in the rain on January 10, 2021 in Singapore. As of January 10, the Ministry of Health confirmed 42 new imported COVID-19 cases, with zero cases in the wider community bringing the country's total to 58,907. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE - JANUARY 10: People wearing protective masks wait to cross a street in the rain on January 10, 2021 in Singapore. As of January 10, the Ministry of Health confirmed 42 new imported COVID-19 cases, with zero cases in the wider community bringing the country's total to 58,907. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health has detected the first case of likely COVID-19 re-infection in Singapore after consultation with an expert panel.

The case is a 28 year-old male Bangladesh national holding a work permit who resides in a dormitory at 43 Tech Park Crescent. He was identified from rostered monitoring testing conducted as part of MOH’s surveillance of recovered workers to monitor their post- infection immunity, said the ministry.

The man was confirmed to have COVID-19 infection on 12 April last year (Case 2513). He subsequently recovered, and consistently tested negative from June 2020 onwards.

However, on 25 January 2021, his test result came back positive for COVID-19 infection, and he was isolated. Numerous repeat tests conducted subsequently were also positive for the virus.

The worker reported that he felt unwell on 22 and 23 January, but is otherwise asymptomatic. He is currently warded at NCID. All his identified close contacts have been isolated and placed on quarantine, and have so far all tested negative for the coronavirus.

While re-infection is rare, the expert panel, which comprises infectious diseases and microbiology experts from NCID, Singapore General Hospital and the National Public Health Laboratory, has assessed that the clinical and laboratory evidence suggests this is a likely case of re-infection.

“In addition to his positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results, there was a corresponding marked increase in antibody titres compared to the period prior to the likely re-infection, suggesting that he was exposed to a new infection which boosted his antibody levels,” said MOH.

The virus detected in his samples taken in January 2021 is also genetically distinct from that associated with the dormitories outbreak in 2020, suggesting that this is likely a different and new infection.

MOH said that it will continue to closely monitor recovered COVID-19 cases to determine their post-infection immunity. So far, there is no indication that recovered workers in the dormitories have significant loss of post-infection immunity.

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