Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong

The country’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) has been raised to Orange today (7 February) as the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced three new novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases of unknown origin.

Just yesterday, the first case of unknown origin was announced by MOH. This makes a total of four individuals in the country, with no links to previous cases and no recent travel history to China have been tested positive for the deadly virus and a total of 33 infected cases so far.

MOH noted that since there are now a few local cases without any links to previous cases or travel history to China, it has stepped up the risk assessment from DORSCON Yellow to DORSCON Orange.

DORSCON is a framework used to guide the way the country deals with and manages outbreaks. Code Orange is one level below Red which is the highest most urgent code used in cases of pandemics that are out of control.

MOH explained that DORSCON looks at the current situation overseas and considers how transmissible the disease is as well as how likely it is to arrive in Singapore. It also considers the impact the disease may have on the local population.

The system was created up the 2003 SARS outbreak. In 2009, the country’s DORSON code was at Orange during the H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said at a press conference today that the government is now emphasising “aggressively trying to stop or limit further spread” of 2019_nCoV.

“We have been preparing for this scenario and we are ready to manage this situation,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a press conference.

“The key is quick detection and managing the local spread,” he added.

DORSON Orange measures

Mr Gan noted that many of measures that are described in Code Orange have been implemented already and will be stepped up now.

There will also be additional measures put in place to minimise the risk of more transmission via the community.

Measures include requiring employers to conduct daily health checks at the workplace such as temperature-taking and screening for respiratory symptoms.

Companies are also encouraged to prepare business continuity plans in case there is widespread community transmission.

As for schools, inter-school and external school activities will be suspended until further notice, including school games and camps. Teachers and students will also continue the other enhanced measures there were introduced on 4 February from having classroom-based assemblies, smaller groups for co-curricular activities, and staggering recesses.

There will also be restrictions on visitors to pre-schools as well as eldercare and social services and facilities.

Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong said in the same press conference, “Overall, we are still working hard and doing our very best to prevent broader community spread of the virus in Singapore. So that remains our strategy today. But we have to be prepared for the situation to evolve in different ways.”

He added, “One scenario could well be that despite our very best efforts to contain, ring-fence and isolate each case that comes up… there is wider community spread. And if so, as we have done already. We have to reassess the situation. If the situation worsens, and we well may have to take more stringent measures beyond what we are announcing today.”

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