A possible “uncontrollable increase” in COVID-19 cases in the Jurong fishing port cluster is behind the government’s decision to return to a tightening of measures in Phase 2 (Intensified Alert), said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
In a post on Facebook on Wednesday (July 22), Mr Ong said that while he is “upset with the irresponsible behavior” of those involved in the origins of the KTV cluster, the number of cases in this cluster has “ decreased in the past few days “.
Jurong fishing port, which has overtaken the KTV cluster as Singapore’s current largest active cluster, is a major concern, Ong said.
“Unfortunately, while our fishmongers and staging assistants were earning an honest living, they became infected in the port. As they worked in various markets on the island, many more cases were planted in the community, ”he said.
Eight new cases were linked to the KTV cluster as of Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 215, according to the health ministry.
The fishing port of Jurong registered 130 new cases yesterday, for a total of 454.
Markets are often frequented by seniors, many of whom remain unvaccinated, Ong said.
“This is very worrying and we run the risk of an uncontrollable increase in cases, which can lead to many serious illnesses or even deaths. Therefore, we need to preventively strengthen social activities,” he said.
Addressing the suspension of dinner arrangements at restaurants, as no cases have been detected in these environments, Mr Ong said: “Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.”
“If five friends get together for dinner, each has 5 people at home, who in turn get together with their friends in groups of 5, we have a 5x5x5 network = 125 connections so the virus can work. This will further burden the Jurong fishing port cluster, ”he said.
Noting that more than half of Singapore’s population has received two doses, Ong said the country is “so close to being in a much stronger and more confident position”.
“It’s a good rate, but it has to go up. This percentage will increase by one percentage point each day. In two weeks we will be at 64% or more. This will put us in a much stronger and resilient position when we review the rules of Phase 2 (HA), ”he said.
“Given the severity of the Jurong fishing port cluster, we believed it was not the time to risk it all,” Ong stressed.
Netizens commenting on The Straits Times and Mothership.sg’s Facebook posts on the subject criticized Mr Ong for appearing to divert the focus of the KTV cluster to Jurong Fishery Port.
“Making Jurong Fishery Port the scapegoat? So you won’t be blamed for issuing short-term season tickets unnecessarily and allowing KTVs to function as F&B ??? said a commentator.
“It all started when the authorities are stupid enough to grant the ktv f & b license. We are more bothered by your inability to deal with this pandemic, “said another.
Another commenter said Mr Ong’s statement appears to “protect KTV owners and also absolve them of any guilt or guilt” regarding the pivoting of certain nightlife companies to those of F&B.
Nightclubs that are not included in a pilot program were allowed to temporarily “pivot” their business into the food and beverage category from October 2020.
The pilot program was delayed in January 2021 until further notice, amid an increase in community cases.
According to the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the delay was to “avoid the risk of new community transmission and clustering in high-risk environments, such as nightclubs and karaoke outlets, which involve people coming into close contact for extended periods of time and in confined spaces ”.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, police and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) said foreign agencies have carried out daily checks on the application of F&B outlets and pivotal nightlife establishments from the ‘October last year, with about 400 outlets inspected in each operation.
“Many of these pivotal establishments have fully met the requirements. Others, disappointingly, have not been responsible,” they said.
Authorities added that joint enforcement operations involving various government agencies and police have also been carried out over 20 weekends and all public holidays since October last year.
“So far, the agencies have imposed around 100 closure orders at F&B outlets, including about 40 pivoted establishments, with about 10 repeat offenders.
“Operators are also facing new enforcement actions, including fines and prosecution,” they noted.
One commenter wondered why KTVs were allowed to pivot when subsidies should have been “better spent on helping to eat with difficulty. Places like stalls and restaurants in street malls.”
Several commenters also noted how Mr Ong had previously stated that KTV and port clusters are related.
“Our scientists are conducting phylogenetic studies. The two clusters are linked, “Ong said in a post on Facebook.
“Genetically, they differ from the Delta variant that infected Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport, but they are closer than we detected in cases imported from Indonesia,” he added.
One commenter was critical of the government’s decision to continue this year’s National Day (NDP) parade, despite the emergence of KTV, the port and other new clusters.
An online petition has appeared on Change.org urging the Government to cancel the NDP this year.
“It makes no sense” for the Government to conduct a public act as it increases the number of COVID-19 cases, according to the petition statement.
Even if NDP is not considered a social gathering, it remains a “mass gathering,” adding that thousands of people will be present at the event when they should not, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, the statement added.
“Performers / protesters do not comply with social distancing even when fully vaccinated,” according to the petition.
The petition also questioned the need to give the green light to NDP when the Government has continuously urged citizens to stay home.
Demanding the cancellation of the event before it becomes the “next big cluster,” the petition said, “This public act contradicts everything the government has told its people to practice.”
The petition has garnered 30,520 signatures out of the 35,000 targets at the time of writing.