Contact tracing process under way: Health Minister
Ministry working to contact those who were in close proximity to Chinese national who had tested positive for Wuhan coronavirus
Singapore's Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had said on Wednesday that it was only a matter of time before the country, well known as an international transport hub, would confirm its first case of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Last night, Mr Gan confirmed that a 66-year-old man from China who had travelled to Singapore from Guangzhou in a group of 10 on Monday has tested positive and is under isolation at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). He is in stable condition.
Speaking at a media briefing at the College of Medicine Building yesterday, Mr Gan said that contact tracing measures were under way.
"We have started the contact tracing process... The process is still ongoing and we are identifying the other close contacts," he added
The Ministry of Health (MOH) learnt last night that eight of the people in the man's travelling group had left Singapore, and it has contacted the authorities of their destination country.
The ninth person, the man's 37-year-old son, is a suspected case and has been hospitalised here.
MOH's director of communicable diseases, Associate Professor Vernon Lee, said that not every person would be considered a close contact.
"To be a close contact, you have to spend a reasonable amount of time in really close proximity - usually around 2m - of the person.
"... it is not just casual contact like brushing past or walking by," he said.
Passengers who sat two rows in front and behind the man on the plane have been identified as those in close proximity and the MOH are working to contact them.
Those who were in close contact will be quarantined and monitored for symptoms for 14 days from their last exposure to the patient.
The Wuhan native and the group of nine others had travelled on a China Southern flight CZ351 and arrived in Singapore at 10.40pm on Monday.
They travelled to Sentosa Island via a chartered car and checked into Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa.
The man remained in the vicinity of his hotel until he developed a fever on Wednesday and went to SGH's emergency department in a taxi accompanied by his son. The MOH are also tracking down the drivers.
The hotel told The Straits Times last night the rooms where the man and his companions stayed in had been sanitised. Four staff who came into contact with him have been told to stay at home since Wednesday.
While the man had fever symptoms, China's National Health Commission had released details showing that five people who died after being infected with the coronavirus did not have fever, raising concerns about the effectiveness of temperature screening.
When asked about the report and possible implications, Assoc Prof Lee said: "As of now, we cannot comment further due to lack of information"
The MOH yesterday advised Singaporeans to avoid travelling to Wuhan.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force that is tackling the Wuhan virus here, said: "Everyone should stay calm and carry on with your lives... by all means continue with your Chinese New Year celebrations, but stay alert, stay vigilant, and don't let your guard down."