Two weeks ago, we’d associate the phrase “COVID-19 clusters” with Changi Airport or Westgate.
Now, it’s all about Bukit Merah View Food Centre.
But you might be wondering: Hey, this area isn’t enclosed like Changi Airport or Westgate, so why does it become such a big cluster that postpones our dine-in plans with four other friends?
Well, the answer is out.
Bukit Merah View Cluster Could’ve Been Spread Via Long Queues for Food & Surfaces in Toilets
In a press conference by the task force tackling COVID-19 in Singapore, MOH’s director of medical services, Kenneth Mak, dedicated quite bit of time to explain this latest cluster.
The cluster now has 56 cases (excluding cases that are reported today). 21 of them are people who work there and 13 are people who visited the food centre or market.
The rest are close contacts of people who are infected there.
50% of the cases are unvaccinated, while 32% of them are fully vaccinated. The rest are just partially protected as they’ve not gone through the entire vaccination process yet.
It’s still unclear what the specific mode of transmission is, but it was likely due to close contacts among people working there in both mask-on and mask-off settings.
Assoc Prof Mak said, “It is clear that the circumstances were right, in a setting where the market and food centre had a number of cases, for transmission to take place.
“All staff and tenants at both the market and food centre have been issued with quarantine orders, and this includes also cleaners, suppliers, delivery drivers that we can identify, as well as other regular visitors to the premises there.”
But how about people who just visited the premises?
Here’s when it gets a tad tricky: it could’ve been long queues in the area.
It’s understood that “a number of the stalls at the food centre are very popular lunch and dinner destinations.”
This leads to long queues…of more than 30 minutes.
Assoc Prof Mak said, “And there are many who work in the vicinity, who will visit both the market and the food centre for their meals. And some of the cases that we have interviewed have reported queuing up for at least 30 minutes, which would ordinarily be considered a significant period of close contact if these visitors were close together.”
One can only wonder if those social media posts asking netizens to support a struggling hawker could cause the next cluster.
But even if you’ve not queued 30 minutes to post an image of yourself helping a struggling hawker, you might still be infected if you use the public toilet.
Assoc Prof Mak said, “There could have been also an element of fomite transmission through the use of common facilities, including the toilets.”
Testing Operations Still Ongoing
Lest you didn’t know, the Bukit Merah View cluster doesn’t comprise just the food centre and market anymore: it also affects the surrounding area.
Currently, MOH is conducting swabbing testing operations in the Bukit Merah and Tiong Bahru area to assess the degree of spread and to keep it under control.
This sounds scary if you live in the area, but for the rest of us, it means Minister Ong meant what he said earlier: we can kind of forget about Circuit Breaker because these operations will be localised.
In the meantime, keep your mask on because it does help to prevent infections. Watch this video to the end and you’ll understand:
Featured Image: Google Maps