Man, 70, is Singapore’s third coronavirus fatality
70-year-old former hawker who had no recent travel history to affected countries dies after 27 days in ICU
A 70-year-old Singaporean died from complications due to Covid-19 yesterday afternoon, making him the third person here to succumb to the virus.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said he had no recent travel history to affected countries and regions.
He tested positive for the infection on March 2 at Singapore General Hospital and died after 27 days in the intensive care unit (ICU).
He had a history of hypertension and hyperlipidaemia, the ministry added.
The patient's profile matches that of Case 109, who was previously identified by his family as Mr Chung Ah Lay.
He worked at Japanese restaurant Fish Mart Sakuraya before being hospitalised but did not serve diners or handle food.
In an interview with Shin Min Daily News, Mr Chung's son, who was not named, said his father had died after his children had seen him for the last time.
He described his father as a kind man, someone who was always willing to extend a helping hand whenever anyone needed it.
The younger Mr Chung said the family would hold the body for three days before cremation, according to MOH guidelines.
According to the Chinese daily, after Mr Chung had fallen ill, 13 people had to be isolated, including five of his young grandchildren.
Mr Chung is the latest of three deaths caused by the coronavirus in Singapore.
On March 21, a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man died from the disease. Both had a history of heart problems.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, programme leader (infectious diseases) and co-director of global health at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said that as the number of cases go up, it is inevitable that the country will see more deaths caused by the virus.
HIGH QUALITY OF CARE
He said: "Close to 1 per cent of those diagnosed will die, especially those who are older, aged 60 and up."
This was despite a high quality of care, he added.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said that given the global fatality rate, Singapore was below the average.
"Given the number of cases, we would have expected more deaths by now," he said.
Professor Paul Tambyah, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, stressed that while we should brace ourselves for more losses, it should be remembered that overall, more than 80 per cent of cases are mild, with about 5 per cent severe.
Prof Tambyah added that the level of mortality in Singapore has been low for several reasons, including the fact that many of the recent cases were found in healthy young adults.
Dr Chia and Assoc Prof Hsu both stressed that a low mortality rate is directly correlated with promptness of intensive care unit admission and treatment, as well as a healthcare system that is not overwhelmed.
Assoc Prof Hsu said that globally, it has been observed that those who were admitted to ICUs had a significantly higher chance of survival.
Dr Chia said that while Singapore should be prepared, we are at little risk of being overwhelmed. He said: "Singapore still has respirators in reserve. We are able to convert ordinary hospital rooms into ICU rooms, should the need arise.
"We have the capacity, trained people and can institute ICU treatment early."
Both experts stressed that when it came to patient health, getting them oxygen therapy early can make a significant difference to the outcome.
Dr Chia stressed that Singapore is also working closely with researchers and investigating treatment options to increase its capability in the light of this crisis.
Prof Tambyah said that while it is hard to predict how the number of cases will go in Singapore, he stressed there is no evidence that the virus is getting more dangerous.
"In fact, there is evidence published on a preprint server that suggests that the virus may be mutating to a less virulent form. This happens with all viruses," he said.
He once sold ‘Rolls Royce of yong tau foo’
Mr Chung Ah Lay was the owner of OK Yong Teow Foo, a well-known stall in Mosque Street.
Known for selling "the Rolls Royce of yong tau foo", Mr Chung helmed the stall until he retired around 2009.
Mr K.F. Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, who featured the former hawker in this newspaper in September 2006, told The New Paper last night: "He was the kind of proud hawker that I am proud to call our own."
In an earlier interview, Ms Ashley Chung told Chinese language Shin Min Daily News that her father had been selling yong tau foo for nearly 30 years.
He had taken over the family business after finishing his studies at Chinese High School.
Mr Seetoh said that back in the day, Mr Chung's wife and sisters helped him run the store daily, and they were all proud of what they were doing.
He also said that Mr Chung had shaped some of the ways he thinks about food.
"It was what he once told me about how he could not afford to use prime ingredients any more as people were flocking to cheaper and factory-made ones that made me think about the value and sustainability of our food culture," said Mr Seetoh.
Mr Seetoh fondly remembers Mr Chung and his dedication.
He said he had been patronising his stall since the 70s and has never been able to find a replacement since Mr Chung retired.
Mr Seetoh said: "I miss his food." - CHEOW SUE-ANN