Singapore Virus Cases Highest in 15 Months on Lounge Cluster

Singapore’s local virus cases reached a 15-month high on Wednesday with 56 new cases amid a worsening cluster at karaoke lounges, though its health minister said this wouldn’t affect the city’s closely-watched reopening plans.

Of the total, six are unlinked and 41 are tied to the karaoke cluster, the health ministry said on Wednesday. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said this development would not threaten easing of restrictions that just began on Monday, with more people allowed to dine-in, since there’s a higher level of vaccination now, according to the Straits Times citing him at a briefing.

The new infection numbers are the highest since April 8 last year, when there were 64 local cases. It comes just as the country appears to have overcome a recent spike in cases by reimposing some lockdown conditions such as banning dine-in and cutting gathering sizes. Karaoke lounges and clubs were shuttered early in the pandemic, though several have since reopened as food and beverage outlets.

While Singapore’s case numbers are far smaller compared to its neighbors Indonesia and Malaysia where daily tallies have hit records, the country is closely watched on how it unravels pandemic restrictions and tackles virus flare-ups.

Investigation

The Southeast Asian nation has said it is stepping up its investigation of the virus cases in these karaoke lounges. It has closed the affected premises for two weeks and providing free testing to people who visited them as well as interacted with Vietnamese social hostesses.

Health Minister Ong also flagged that the nation’s extensive contact tracing system may not help in this case, since the data is likely not comprehensive if the lounges were operating illegally, according to the Business Times.

Singapore took a first step in rolling back Covid curbs on Monday with groups of five being allowed to dine-in at food outlets from two previously. The government has stressed that vaccination for its population of 5.7 million people is the key to reopening the trade hub.

As of July 12, Singapore administered more than 6.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines under its national inoculation program with more than 4 million individuals having gotten their first dose, according to government data.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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