Singapore

Coronavirus: Two women infected while working in health products shop catering to Chinese tourists

Every morning, seven days a week, busloads of tourists from China would visit Yong Thai Hang, a Chinese health products store in Cavan Road in the Lavender area.

Yesterday, the authorities said that two women who work there are down with the coronavirus, after exposure to a Chinese tour group on Jan 23.

An Indonesian maid employed by one of the women has also caught the virus, as has the tour guide who led the group there.

The tourists are believed to be from Guangxi, a region in southern China. However, the Chinese authorities have yet to confirm this.

The shop, which is along a stretch of road next to the Jalan Besar Sports Centre, was shut when The Straits Times visited yesterday.

Neighbouring businesses were shocked to learn about the cases.

Mr Freddy Ngiam, the manager of a hotel next door, said he has not seen any activity around the shop over the past three days.

"It has been unusually quiet. I didn't think much of it because it came around the same time as the announcement about the travel restrictions," he said, referring to Singapore's entry ban on travellers who had been to China in the past 14 days since 11.59pm on Feb 1.

Mr Ngiam said the area is quiet, save for the many tour groups that visit the shop. Seven to eight tour buses usually come by, each carrying up to 20 Chinese tourists.

According to websites, Yong Thai Hang is known for its crocodile oil that is supposed to help remove scars and prevent wrinkles. A large sign at its shopfront says it also sells cosmetics and healthcare goods.

DOORS CLOSED

Other shopkeepers in the area said they did not know the employees or the owner of the shop well and hardly saw them around.

"The doors are always closed. Whenever a tour bus comes, the tourists either enter the shop or some of the tourists will linger outside," said a shopkeeper who declined to be named.

She said since news of the coronavirus outbreak broke last month, she had noticed that tourists who visited Yong Thai Hang would be wearing facial masks.

Mr Ngiam said his hotel does not usually see Chinese guests. He added that he will look into disinfecting its premises and rooms as a precaution.

Ms Jean Wang, chairman of the Society of Tourist Guides Singapore, said last night that the organisation had not identified the infected tourist guide.

The society's secretary, Mr Howard Lim, said that about 100 members have reported hosting tour groups from China between Jan 15 and Jan 31.

"Some of them are concerned about the news, so we advised them to self-quarantine. So far no members have reported sick," he said.

MEDICAL & HEALTH