Singapore Presses On With Reopening Despite Karaoke Club Cluster

Singapore is racing to figure out how to counter a growing Covid cluster around karaoke lounges, where the sort of close contact and discretion essential to their normal operations complicates efforts to ring-fence these cases and prevent spread.

Investigations are ongoing against the operators of three establishments for breach of safe management measures, the Singapore Police Force said in a statement. Police have arrested 20 women suspected of involvement in vice-related activities at the lounges. Another four establishments, currently operating as food and beverage outlets, have been identified as having ongoing transmission of the virus and are being closed for two weeks for deep cleaning, the Ministry of Health said.

The probes and arrests came as the health ministry reported on Wednesday 56 new Covid-19 infections, the highest daily total since April 2020, with 41 of these belonging to the lounge cluster.

Singapore doesn’t plan to reverse its recent easing of social gathering restrictions, as it did after prior cluster outbreaks, since there’s a higher level of vaccination now, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters Wednesday. More than 70% of Singapore’s population has now had at least one dose of the vaccine, one of the highest rates in Asia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, with free vaccine appointments available island-wide to those 12 years of age or older.

”We are in a much more resilient position than before,” Ong said. “For now, we will keep the rules that has come into effect since Monday, and so there will not be any reversal.” He added that people should exercise restraint and caution, only meeting people if they have to and otherwise sticking to interacting with family members and usual friends. The country this week relaxed dine-in group sizes to up to five people, from two previously.

Experts expect the case count to grow, the Straits Times said, in part because patrons may be reluctant to come forward and admit they’ve been to the establishments, while hostesses are also unlikely to want to disclose who they’ve been in contact with.

The police said they plan to step up enforcement against “vice and other illegal activities” in the city-state, as well as increase checks on similar lounge outlets. Authorities “take a very negative view of irresponsible behaviours relating to the flouting of safe distancing measures and offenders will be dealt with firmly.”

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