Overall figures of COVID-19 increase due to unlinked cases, but number of cases at bus interchanges “coming down”: Ong Ye Kung

Overall figures of COVID-19 increase due to unlinked cases, but number of cases at bus interchanges “coming down”: Ong Ye Kung

The number of COVID-19 cases at the bus interchanges has actually been “coming down”, despite the growing overall figures which are mainly contributed by unlinked cases and those needing classification, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Speaking at a press conference by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force on Friday (3 Sep), Mr Ong noted that the number of new cases at the interchanges has been dropping.

For instance, at Boon Lay Bus Interchange, there were 21 new cases last Monday (1 Sep), compared with five new cases on Friday. Similarly, Toa Payoh Bus Interchange had 20 new cases at its peak last Monday, compared with three new cases on Friday, said the Minister.

“The cases are actually coming down, but the overall figures are going up, mainly contributed by unlinked cases and those needing classification, but these are not cases detected through swab operations at the bus interchange,” he noted.

Mr Ong highlighted that continuous testing, isolating, and contact tracing have succeeded in containing the spread of COVID-19 at the bus interchanges.

“I’m mindful that when people see a high number – today, 216 – they think it’s all bus interchanges. Actually, it’s not. Bus interchanges numbers are falling,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases from the bus interchange clusters have increased to 469 cases on Sunday (5 Sep). The interchanges are Toa Payoh, Boon Lay, Punggol, Jurong East, Bishan, Sengkang, Tampines, and Clementi.

Separately, Transport Minister S Iswaran on Friday also said that there is no evidence yet showing that COVID-19 clusters in bus interchanges have resulted in the spreading of the deadly coronavirus to commuters.

“The experts have said that there is no evidence of any spread to commuters but we will make sure we observe all the safeguards that have been put in place,” Mr Iswaran told the media on the sidelines of Land Transport Industry Day at the Land Transport Authority (LTA) office in Bedok.

The priority right now is to ensure that both transport workers and commuters are safe, he said, adding that the public transport system continues to function.

“If there is a need to do more, the LTA will work with public transport operators to do so.”

Ong Ye Kung said in May that public transport can be “very safe” if commuters refrain from talking

In May this year, Mr Ong, who was then-Minister for Transport, said that public transport can be “very safe” if commuters keep their masks on and refrain from talking.

He relinquished his appointment as Minister of Transport – after only nine months in the Ministry – and became the Health Minister on 15 May, following the latest cabinet reshuffle in Singapore.

During the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference in May, Mr Ong was quoted saying: “Be assured that the air ventilation within the train is actually very good. Excluding the opening and closing of train doors, every six minutes, all the air is being replenished.”

“So with good ventilation… [if commuters] refrain from talking, keep your masks on, and LTA and the public transport operators running the train frequencies normally like pre-COVID, I think we can keep public transport very safe,” he added.

Netizens demand Government to reveal details of unlinked cases

Penning their thoughts under the comments section of CNA’s Facebook video, netizens have been questioning the source of unlinked cases. They urged Mr Ong to explain the growing number of unlinked cases instead of reiterating that the number of cases at bus interchanges has been dropping.

Some of them pointed out that the Government seems to be denying that unlinked cases originated from bus interchanges, while refusing to release specific details of the COVID-19 cases.

One netizen wrote: “Not from bus interchange… No longer inform which places visited by covid… Sometimes give new clusters but say cannot give info.”

“Then release data la. Don’t want to cause public fear but ended up creating more fear,” said another netizen.

They could be referring to MOH’s statement on 29 June saying that it will no longer disclose details of each new COVID-19 case detected in the community as the country moves towards a new phase of battling the pandemic.

Besides daily numbers, the Ministry stated that it will only include information on the key trends of the local situation, clusters it monitoring, the progress of vaccination, and the number of people who suffered a severe form of the disease.

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