The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced today (29 Mar) that a third person has died in Singapore due to COVID-19 infection.
He was a 70 year-old male Singaporean with no recent travel history outside of Singapore. He was admitted to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on 29 Feb, and was confirmed to have COVID-19 infection on 2 Mar. He had been cared for in the intensive care unit (ICU) since then. MOH said he later developed serious complications and eventually succumbed to the infection after 27 days in the ICU.
As of yesterday (28 Mar), the total number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore has exceeded 800 reaching 802.
With the large number of imported cases reported over the last couple of weeks, the government has also announced that it will now implement “additional precautionary measures” for all foreigners who hold Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) and Student’s Pass (STP), entering Singapore. These measures will come into effect at midnight today.
But despite the measures introduced to address the hike in imported cases, it is noted that the number of unlinked cases has been rising since mid-March from the information on MOH’s website.
These are cases which cannot be linked to existing infected cases immediately at the time of reporting. The number of daily new cases, including imported, locally linked and locally unlinked ones, is also seen to be rising rapidly.
Just yesterday, there were 14 unlinked cases reported out of 70 new cases of COVID-19 infection.
Head of Chinese CDC: Not wearing masks is a “big mistake”
Given that more unlinked cases are being detected daily, the Singapore government’s stand has always been that people should not wear masks if they are well, although they have omitted this message from their daily advertisement on the mainstream papers.
On the other hand, Oxford-trained George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who recently gave an interview to Science magazine said that not wearing masks is a ‘big mistake’ (‘Not wearing masks to protect against coronavirus is a ‘big mistake,’ top Chinese scientist says‘, 27 Mar).
“The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks,” Dr Gao said.
“This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role — you’ve got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people have asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.”
Dr Gao was part of a team that did the first isolation and sequencing of the COVID-19 virus. He co-authored two widely read papers published in The New England Journal of Medicine that provided some of the first detailed epidemiology and clinical features of the disease, and has published three more papers on COVID-19 in The Lancet.
His team also provided important data to a joint commission between Chinese researchers and a team of international scientists, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr Gao earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Oxford and did postdocs both at Oxford and Harvard University, specializing in immunology and virology. His research specializes in viruses that have fragile lipid membranes called envelopes — a group that includes COVID-19 — and how they enter cells and also move between species.
He was recently interviewed by Science magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s oldest and largest general science organization with affiliations to some 262 scientific societies and academies.