Last Friday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that an Indian expat had contracted COVID-19 after returning from India, despite having negative PCR tests and not showing any symptoms while he was serving 21 days of SHN at a dedicated facility.
The expat works as a senior research fellow working at the National University of Singapore (NUS). This was what transpired for the Indian national:
- 28 Dec: Went back to India from Singapore
- 19 Mar: Had a pre-departure test in India (negative result)
- 21 Mar: Left India and arrived in Singapore. Did on-arrival swab test (negative result) before serving SHN at dedicated facility
He was then identified as a close contact of another case during their flight from India to Singapore. Subsequently:
- 24 Mar: Moved to a quarantine area at the dedicated facility
- 25 Mar: Had PCR test (negative result)
- 3 Apr: Had PCR test (negative result)
- 10 Apr: Had PCR test (negative result)
- 11 Apr: Left SHN dedicated facility
- 12 Apr: Go back to NUS to work with onset of symptoms in the evening while at work.
He was said to develop fatigue on the evening of 12 Apr followed by sore throat and body aches the following day on 13 Apr. When he developed a fever on 14 Apr, he went to seek medical treatment at a polyclinic. He was tested for COVID-19 again.
The next day on 15 Apr, his test result came back positive this time. He was then immediately conveyed to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in an ambulance. His serology result has come back negative, indicating that this is a current infection.
All his close contacts, including family members and NUS co-workers, have been isolated and placed on quarantine, said MOH.
In all, the Indian expat served a total of 21 days of SHN at the dedicated facility but started showing COVID-19 symptoms on the 22nd day.
“Double mutant” COVID-19 variant found in India
The number of COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed in India. From reporting under 10,000 new daily cases earlier this year, daily infections have now crossed 200,000, the highest anywhere in the world.
Hospitals in India are overflowing with COVID-19 patients. “We are definitely over-burdened. We are already working at full capacity,” said a hospital’s medical director.
Patients are now even resorting to sharing beds due to hospital bed shortages, while bodies of the recently deceased lie outside the ward before being taken to the mortuary.
Last month, BBC reported a new “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus found in samples collected in India. In this variant, two mutations were found to have come together in the same virus.
Bloomberg reported that the this new variant “is thought to be fueling India’s deadlier new wave of infections that has made it the world’s second worst-hit country, surpassing Brazil, and has already begun to overwhelm its hospitals and crematoriums”.
India has now more than 14 million cases with fatalities exceeding 174,300.
“This is a variant of interest we are following,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead officer on COVID-19, told the media.
“Having two of these mutations, which have been seen in other variants around the world, are concerning,” she said, adding that there was a similarity with mutations that increase transmission as well as reduce neutralization, possibly stunting the ability of vaccines to curb them.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has decided to ban all flights from India to New Zealand (‘NZ bans travel from India while SG opens borders despite large number of imported Covid cases‘).
The suspension took place starting from Sunday (11 Apr) to the end of the month (28 Apr).
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern said while the temporary ban is for India, the decision behind it is not country-specific. “New Zealand is not immune to the virus, especially with a pandemic raging outside our borders,” she said and added that the temporary suspension of travel from India was to protect both New Zealand and the travellers themselves.