It was reported yesterday (14 Feb) that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed and verified 9 additional cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore.
Of these, 6 are linked to the cluster at Grace Assembly of God and one is linked to a previous case. Contact tracing of the other 2 cases is underway to establish any links to previous cases or travel history to China.
In total, Singapore has 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, making Singapore the most infected country outside of China presently.
One of the 9 new cases discovered yesterday was Case 59, a 61-year-old male Singaporean anaesthesiologist with no recent travel history to China and has no known interactions with past cases. He is the first medical professional in Singapore to be infected with the coronavirus.
In a phone interview, he told the media from his hospital bed at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) that he actually works at a private hospital as an anaesthesiologist in operating theatres. He asked not to be named.
He said he started to have a fever last Friday (7 Feb) but had no other symptoms like cough or sore throat. He then decided to stay home.
The fever persisted and he thought he might have come down with dengue fever because two of his neighbours were down with dengue during Chinese New Year. So, on Sunday (9 Feb), he went to the emergency care clinic at Farrer Park Hospital and did a dengue test. The result came back negative the next day (10 Feb).
By Wednesday (12 Feb), his temperature was still high and this time, he went to see an infectious disease specialist in Mount Elizabeth Hospital. A swab test was done and sent for testing. On Thursday (13 Feb), it was confirmed that he had the COVID-19 virus and an ambulance was immediately dispatched to fetch him from his home at Wilkinson Road to NCID.
“I am just unlucky. That’s all I can say,” he told the media.
When asked how he thought he could have infected with the virus, he said, “I don’t know. No idea at all.”
He added that hospitals have all the precautionary measures in place and did not think he was infected at the hospital he was working in. “There are temperature screenings at hospitals. Those who enter are supposed to be screened already. We check our temperature every day,” he said.
“Nowadays we don’t really know where the virus is from. I didn’t expect to get it.”
So far, his family members have been tested negative for the virus.
When asked how easily can asymptomatic carriers pass it to others, World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing on 11 Feb that the virus can be passed by the respiration of tiny airborne droplets from an infected person.
Besides handwashing and maintaining distance from people who are visibly ill, WHO and other public health authorities have so far been unable to issue clear guidance as to what else the general public can do to protect themselves from the virus.
WHO experts have said that there is mixed evidence about the extent to which simple surgical masks may or may not provide an added measure of protection. In Singapore, political leaders have championed the notion that there is no need to wear a mask if you are well.