New KTV cluster 'very troubling and disappointing': Ong Ye Kung
Nightlife business group chief hopes 'bad apples' will not further hurt an industry desperate for a rebound
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has urged those who have visited KTV outlets over the past 14 days to get tested for Covid-19.
This comes after 42 new infections were linked to a growing KTV cluster here, making it the second largest active cluster in Singapore with 54 cases so far.
It includes a 40-year-old passenger on a Dream Cruises ship, who was initially identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive.
The ship was forced to turn back to Singapore yesterday.
There were 56 community cases reported yesterday, the highest single-day spike since April last year.
With the bulk of it linked to the KTV cluster, Mr Ong described the situation as "very troubling and disappointing" when he spoke to reporters at a virtual doorstop interview.
With Singapore's vaccination programme ramped up and community cases down to a trickle recently, clubs and KTV operators had been hoping for some reprieve after being forced to shut when the coronavirus first surged here last year.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Singapore Nightlife Business Association president Joseph Ong expressed his frustration and said: "The majority of the nightlife operators who pivoted have been strictly adhering to the safe management measures. So it is really unfortunate that a few black sheep in the industry may set us back."
He hoped the "bad apples" would not have an effect on the rest of the nightlife industry.
Two experts TNP spoke to said clubs and KTV outlets are high-risk because of the enclosed space and the fact that masks are off in such settings.
Professor Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert from the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said: "I am sure the Government will look at this sector as it is high risk.
"Ultimately in the future when vaccine rates are high, all businesses will be open again but this sector may progress slower as people do mingle, are mask-free and may find it a challenge to social distance."
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said the KTV cluster is an example of how one slip up can lead to a large outbreak in the community.
"The nightlife industry is exciting but policing in such an environment is difficult. What you cannot see spells greater undercover spreading of the virus," he added.
Some restrictions were eased on Monday, with people once again being allowed to dine in groups of five, for example, up from two previously.
The minister said yesterday there will be no changes to the safety measures despite the spike.
"We thought long and hard about it, and given that we just started this on Monday, and that we now have a much higher level of vaccination rate... we are in a much more resilient position than before.
"So as for now, we will keep the rules that have come into effect since Monday. There will not be any reversal," he said.
The Ministry of Health's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the index case for the KTV cluster was a Vietnamese woman on a short-term visit pass.
She had gone to a doctor on Sunday with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection and subsequently tested positive.
Her close contacts, including those living in the same house as her, were identified through contact tracing and also tested positive, Associate Professor Mak added.
The minister was "not entirely surprised".
"This is the nature of the Delta variant," Mr Ong said, adding that this variant is more transmissible.
"We knew about cases like that happening in Korea, in Hong Kong, nightlife - people coming very close together, some with hostesses, and leading to big clusters. So we have never allowed such activities for the past more than one year," he added.
The police said in a news release last night that three KTV outlets were being investigated for breaching safe management measures.
The minister reassured KTV patrons that the testing process is confidential and their privacy would be protected.
Addressing those who may be concerned about possible enforcement taken against them should they test positive, Mr Ong said the Health Ministry's priority is to find out who has been infected and getting them isolated.
"If you are still somehow uncomfortable for whatever reason and really don't feel like doing it, at the very least I can only urge you if you have visited KTV lounges and interacted with hostesses since June 29, at the very least stay at home, tell your family about it," he added.
"Make sure you have your own room, isolate yourself, get your family to buy you some ART (antigen rapid test) kits, test yourself, don't interact with anybody and monitor your health for the next 14 days."