At a media briefing yesterday (16 Jul), Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that the index case of the Vietnamese hostess in the KTV cluster of COVID-19 infections may not be the first infected case.
It could be seeded by an initial community spread, he said. The KTV cluster has skyrocketed to a total of 120 case yesterday since Monday’s announcement (12 Jul).
“The mode of specific transmission is still unknown,” Mak said.
The Vietnamese hostess is a Short Term Visit Pass (STVP) holder who entered Singapore in February sponsored by her Singaporean “boyfriend”.
However, due to the deteriorating COVID-19 situation in Vietnam, Air Travel Pass for short-term visitors travelling from Vietnam was suspended with effect from 12 Feb. The hostess has entered Singapore just before the suspension.
As the Vietnamese hostess entered Singapore 5 months ago, it’s unlikely that her COVID-19 infection came from Vietnam.
STVP of Vietnamese hostesses extended by ICA
According to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the extension of STVP should not be more than 3 months. However, the Vietnamese hostess and others have been continuously extending their stay here.
“During this pandemic, ICA has been assessing applications to extend short-term visit passes on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration extenuating reasons, such as international travel restrictions and flight availability, and whether the applicants have family ties in Singapore,” ICA explained.
“For example, Vietnam nationals can only return to Vietnam through relief flights arranged by the Vietnamese authorities.”
STVP is typically approved for family reasons. Those entering Singapore were tested, and it was clear that they did not bring in the virus, assured Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.
However, since March, ICA has quietly removed the “boyfriend/girlfriend of Singapore citizen/permanent resident” category in granting STVP.
This came after Worker’s Party MP He Ting Ru asked the Minister of Home Affairs in Parliament on 16 Feb about the number of short term visitors entering Singapore under the “Family Ties” and other schemes.
Employers who abet STVP holders in illegal employment will face enforcement action
In any case, the infected Vietnamese hostess was later found to have frequented many KTV outlets. “We are all very disappointed with the latest setback in the flare-up of cases,” said Wong yesterday.
He also said that action will taken against any illegal moonlighting as well as sponsors of these passes if they did not give accurate information to ICA.
Under the law, STVP holders are not supposed to engage in any form of employment, or in any business, profession or occupation in Singapore. Those who flout the law will be dealt with accordingly.
Employers who employ these pass holders illegally, or abet them in illegal employment, will also face enforcement action such as a fine of up to $30,000, or up to 12 months’ imprisonment, or both.
One of the managers of an affected KTV, who only gave his name as Mr Li, told the media earlier, “To be honest, I do not know who they are. For our part, we allow customers to come in whether they’re hostesses, or Singaporeans, or Chinese nationals or Vietnamese. We are not racist … We don’t exclude (any group).”
“All of us are hoping we can reopen to nightlife entertainment… the Government has given us a chance to operate as F&B, so we try our best to adhere to the rules that the Government sets,” Li added.