Singapore’s daily infections top 1,000 for 1st time

by BLOOMBERG/ pic by AFP

SINGAPORE • The number of daily coronavirus cases in Singapore topped 1,000 for the first time since the pandemic began — driven by a surge in infections among migrant workers — even as rival financial hub Hong Kong reported no new cases.

The city-state recorded 1,426 new cases yesterday, bringing the total number of Covid-19 infections to more than 8,000, according to a statement by the Health Ministry.

Of the new cases, “the vast majority” are work permit holders living in foreign worker dormitories spread across the island, while 16 cases are Singaporeans or permanent residents, the ministry said.

The rising number of cases in these facilities, where more than 200,000 people live, has posed a challenge to Singapore’s containment strategy after accolades from health experts for its methodical virus response in the early days of the pandemic.

While stringent social distancing measures have largely stabilised the spread in the wider community, the government has been looking for new ways to house workers who may be sharing living spaces with 10 or more people.

Singapore has converted military camps and vacant public housing into interim housing facilities for healthy workers. It is also considering the use of cruise ships to accommodate workers who have recovered from the coronavirus and tested negative.

While coronavirus cases in the city-state have soared in recent weeks — giving Singapore the most number of confirmed infections in South-East Asia — those in Hong Kong have slowed to a crawl after a week-straight of new daily cases in the single digits.

The Asian financial hub reported zero new cases yesterday, the first time it has done so since March 5.

As of last Friday, the strain on Hong Kong’s isolation facilities had eased compared to two weeks prior as the number of people admitted to the hospital has declined, an official from the Department of Health said at a briefing. The usage rate of isolation beds has fallen to around 50%.

Hong Kong acted early in late January and early February with restrictive social distancing measures, such as closing schools and government offices, while the city’s residents have been wearing surgical masks since the outbreak began.

While Singapore has been imposing similar strict social distancing measures, it did not require the use of masks outdoors until last week.

On Sunday, Singapore overtook Indonesia in coronavirus infections and now has the most cases in South-East Asia after the city-state detected hundreds more victims among low-wage foreign workers.

As of yesterday, Indonesia had more than 6,700 confirmed infections.