3 NEW MUTATED COVID-19 STRAINS DETECTED IN SOUTH KOREA
SEOUL: Three new mutated genome sequences of the novel coronavirus have been detected in South Korea among three imported COVID-19 cases, the country’s public health authorities said on Monday (Aug 10) as reported by Yonhap.
Possible mutations were detected in the virus' "spike protein", which is known to help COVID-19 penetrate into a living human cell, the news outlet reported, adding the imported infections involved two people from Pakistan and one from Uzbekistan.
According to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the new mutations are different from 78,810 viral genome sequences registered in the database from GISAID – a global science initiative and primary source for genomic data of influenza viruses and the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19.
“The latest findings will not affect the existing polymerase chain reaction tests, but we find it necessary to find out whether they have a different degree of infectivity," KCDC chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said, as reported by Yonhap.
"(Three people) were self-isolated upon entering the country. There were no people who had contact with them in the country," he added.
The finding was based on the KCDC's analysis of sequenced genomes of a total of 776 COVID-19 patients, including 597 local infections and 179 imported cases, reported Yonhap.
9 August 2020
US SETS RECORD AS COVID-19 CASES TOP 5 MILLION
WASHINGTON: The United States set a record for coronavirus cases on Saturday (Aug 8), with more than 5 million people now infected, according to a Reuters tally, as the country's top infectious diseases official offered hope earlier this week that an effective vaccine might be available by year-end.
With one out of every 66 residents infected, the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases, according to a Reuters analysis. The country has recorded more than 160,000 deaths, nearly a quarter of the world's total.
9 August 2020
AUSTRALIA'S VICTORIA REPORTS DEADLIEST DAY OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC
MELBOURNE: Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, reported its deadliest day of the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday (Aug 9), with 17 people dying in the past 24 hours, although new infections showed signs of easing.
Victoria, at the centre of a second wave of infections in Australia, reported 394 cases of the new coronavirus, compared with a daily average of 400-500 over the past week. The new deaths bring the state's total to 210.
The southeastern state, with infections concentrated in the capital Melbourne, accounts for more than two-thirds of the national tally of nearly 21,000.
In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, Victoria has imposed a night curfew, tightened restrictions on people's daily movements and ordered large parts of the local economy to close.
8 August 2020
BRAZIL COVID-19 DEATHS REACH 100,000 AND BARREL ONWARD
BRASILIA: Brazil's death toll from COVID-19 passed 100,000 on Saturday (Aug 8) and continue to climb as most Brazilian cities reopen shops and dining even though the pandemic has yet to peak.
Confronting its most lethal outbreak since the Spanish flu a century ago, Brazil reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus at the end of February. The virus took three months to kill 50,000 people, and just 50 days to kill the next 50,000.
Led by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has played down the gravity of the pandemic and fought lockdowns by local officials, Brazilians who protested nightly from their windows in the first months of the outbreak have met the grim milestone with a shrug.
Brazil still has no coordinated plan to fight the pandemic, as many officials focus on "reopening," which is likely to boost the spread of the disease and worsen the outbreak.
The health ministry on Saturday reported 49,970 new confirmed cases and 905 deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the number of cases to more than 3 million and the death toll to 100,477.
8 August 2020
RARE SYNDROME LINKED TO COVID-19 FOUND IN NEARLY 600 US CHILDREN: CDC
REUTERS: Nearly 600 children were admitted to US hospitals with a rare inflammatory syndrome associated with the novel coronavirus over four months during the peak of the pandemic, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report on Friday.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) is a rare but severe condition that shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, including fever, rashes, swollen glands and, in severe cases, heart inflammation.
It has been reported in children and adolescent patients about two to four weeks after the onset of COVID-19.
With rising COVID-19 cases, there could be an increased occurrence of MIS-C, but this might not be apparent immediately because of the delay in development of symptoms, said the report's authors, including those from the CDC's COVID-19 response team.
In May, the CDC published a health advisory with details of how MIS-C manifests in patients, and asked clinicians to report suspected US cases to local and state health departments.
As of Jul 29, state health departments across the country reported a total of 570 MIS-C patients diagnosed with the illness from Mar 2 to Jul 18.
Among the MIS-C cases, all patients tested positive for COVID-19 and 10 died, the CDC said in the report.
The data is consistent with two US studies published in June and several reports of the syndrome among COVID-19 patients in France, Italy, Spain and Britain.
The report, the CDC said, highlights the need for greater awareness among healthcare providers, as distinguishing patients with MIS-C from those with acute COVID-19 and other hyperinflammatory conditions is critical for early recognition, early diagnosis, and prompt treatment.
7 August 2020
GUIDELINES FOR 7TH LUNAR MONTH ACTIVITIES
The guidelines have been developed by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), in consultation with the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF) and Taoist Federation (TF). This year’s 7th lunar month is from 19 August to 16 September 2020:
Religious organisations (ROs) are allowed to conduct 7th lunar month prayer services for up to 50 persons at a time (excluding religious and supporting workers, which should be kept to a minimum) and must observe the following safe management measures:
a. Prayer services should be kept to as short a duration as possible. Worshippers should leave immediately after performing their prayers. There should be no mingling between worshippers before, during or after the prayer service.
b. Worshippers are to observe 1 metre safe distance between themselves and others if they are worshipping individually. Worshippers may also worship in groups of no more than 5 persons, with 1 metre safe distancing between groups.
c. All persons present must wear a face mask at all times. Those who are involved in the conduct of the prayer service (e.g. religious leader, priest, or monk) may wear a face shield when performing their speaking duties and must be at least 1 metre away from any other individual.
d. Worshippers can burn incense and joss paper within the premises that the prayer services are held and should do so responsibly. Worshippers should leave immediately after performing their prayers.
e. Singing and other live performances are not permitted during the prayer service. Singing is considered a higher risk activity as it could potentially release a larger amount of droplets.
f. Premises where the prayer services are held should be well-ventilated. Premises that have reduced air circulation (e.g. air-conditioned prayer hall) should, where possible, open doors and windows to naturally ventilate the space after use.
g. No receptions or on-site meals are allowed before or after the prayer service. ROs are allowed to distribute takeaway meals, pre-packed staple food items and prayer packages to worshippers. ROs should limit the number of religious workers and staff involved in such distribution, as well as reduce the frequency and duration of direct interactions with worshippers.
h. The above measures are in addition to existing safe management measures for religious activities in Phase Two.
Places of Worship. ROs are allowed to conduct the 7th lunar month prayer services in their places of worship. The number of persons attending such prayer services would count towards the existing limit of 50 persons at any one time for worship services in the place of worship.
External Venues. 7th lunar month prayers can take place in venues outside of places of worship (e.g. HDB common areas, industrial areas) if they are conducted by ROs with a good track record of implementing safe management measures [i.e. have submitted Safe Management Plans (SMPs) for Phase Two activities to MCCY], or by religious workers endorsed by these ROs.
6 August 2020
FINAL STRETCH OF DORMITORY CLEARANCE (SOURCE : MOH)
Over the coming weeks, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce will continue taking further steps towards a new COVID-normal. We are in the final stretch of dormitory clearances, which will allow the vast majority of workers to resume work by mid to late August 2020. As we gradually open our borders, we are adjusting our charging policy for COVID-19 treatment to support returning travellers should they be infected while participating in permitted essential travel. While more activities and events are allowed to resume over time, most events should remain fully virtual or hybrid physical-virtual where possible to protect our loved ones and fellow Singaporeans.
Progress of Dormitory Clearance
The Inter-agency Taskforce will complete the testing of all workers in the dormitories by 7 August 2020. This means that all the dormitories will be COVID-cleared, with the exception of several standalone blocks which serve as quarantine facilities.
The workers in these quarantine facilities will be tested when their isolation ends, and case counts will remain high. After completing their isolation, most of the workers will be able to resume work once the dormitory operators and employers complete the necessary preparations to do so in a safe manner.
Expediting the Return of Workers to Work
Government agencies are also working closely with the employers to ensure that their workers practice safe living and safe distancing measures at sites and dormitories. With the completion of dormitory clearance and facilitation of resumption of work by sector agencies, we expect the vast majority of dormitory residents to be able to resume work by mid to late August (i.e. have AccessCode green).
6 August 2020
REVISED CHARGING POLICY FOR COVID-19 TREATMENT FOR TRAVELLERS (SOURCE : MOH)
The Government has been bearing the costs of inpatient medical bills for Singapore Citizens (SCs)/ Permanent Residents (PRs)/ Long-Term Pass Holders (LTPHs) who require treatment for COVID-19 at public healthcare institutions (PHIs). This does not apply to individuals who breach travel advisories. SCs/ PRs/ LTPHs who travel overseas from 27 Mar 2020 onwards are required to pay for their own inpatient medical bills in full should they have onset of symptoms within 14 days of returning to Singapore. They will also not be able to claim from MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plans in public and private hospitals, should they require COVID-19 inpatient care.
The Government is gradually permitting essential travel through various travel arrangements. From 7 August 2020, all outbound SCs/ PRs/ LTPHs travellers who travel abroad under permitted travel arrangements will be able to tap on regular healthcare financing arrangements for their inpatient medical bills, should they have onset of symptoms within 14 days of their return to Singapore and require hospital admission for suspected COVID-19 infection. In other words, SCs/PRs will be eligible for Government subsidies and MediShield Life/ Integrated Shield Plans coverage, and will be required to pay any remaining co-payment. LTPHs may tap on their prevailing financing arrangements (e.g. foreign worker insurance), where applicable.
The permitted travel arrangements to which the above applies include Green/ Fast Lanes which are currently in place, as well as any permitted travel arrangement that may be implemented in the future.
SCs/ PRs/ LTPHs who are not under permitted travel arrangements and travel in breach of the travel advisories will continue to pay for their COVID-19 inpatient medical bills in full with no access to subsidies and MediShield Life/ Integrated Shield Plan coverage.
Short-Term Pass Holders entering Singapore under permitted travel arrangements will remain responsible for their medical bills, should they test positive for COVID-19.
Gradual Resumption of Activities; Most Events to Remain Virtual
On 4 August 2020, we launched a pilot for wedding receptions of up to 50 persons. The list of places where wedding receptions can be held is being gradually expanded to include more venues. For now, wedding receptions are allowed only in controlled venues where safe management measures can be better implemented and enforced, such as restaurants, hotels, and public and private function rooms. For example, selected indoor function spaces managed by NParks have been available for wedding receptions since 4 August 2020 while function rooms and multi-purpose halls at community centres/clubs will be available from 31 August 2020.
In order to reduce our total risk exposure, most other events should continue to remain virtual for now. These include large gatherings and festivities surrounding national and community occasions such as National Day (e.g. community concerts and observance ceremonies) and Seventh Lunar Month events (e.g. live auctions, getai performances).
5 August 2020
No data has been published about the vaccine, which has been touted by its developers as safe and potentially the first to reach the public.
GERMAN-CHINESE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE TRIAL BEGINS IN CHINA
BERLIN: Clinical trials on humans have begun in China for a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by German pharmaceutical group BioNTech with Chinese company Fosun Pharma, the companies said Wednesday (Aug 5).
Seventy-two participants have already received their first dose following approval for the phase 1 trial from Chinese regulatory authorities, BioNTech and Fosun Pharma said in a statement.
The vaccine candidate, known as BNT162b1, is one of four based on BioNTech's proprietary mRNA technology. Another, BNT162b2, is being evaluated in a global phase 3 trial conducted by BioNTech and US giant Pfizer which started on Jul 27.
The phase 1 trial in China involves 144 participants who will receive two doses 21 days apart. Those aged 18-55 will be the first to take part, followed by older people.
On top of the BioNTech/Pfizer candidate, two other Western coronavirus vaccines are in final phase three trials: one produced by US biotech firm Moderna and the National Institutes for Health; and the other by the University of Oxford and Britain's AstraZeneca.
More than 200 candidate vaccines are currently being developed with roughly two dozen at the stage of clinical trials with human volunteers.
5 August 2020
MODERNA IN TALKS TO SUPPLY COUNTRIES WITH COVID-19 VACCINE; US$32-$37 A DOSE FOR SMALLER DEALS
MASSACHUSETTS: Moderna is in talks with several countries for supply agreements for its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the company said on Wednesday (Aug 5), adding that it had already received about US$400 million in deposits for potential supply.
The company's vaccine candidate is one of the few to be in the final stages of testing as drug-makers race to develop a safe and effective vaccine against the pandemic that has claimed more than 700,000 lives worldwide. Moderna said on Wednesday smaller volume agreements for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidate have been executed between US$32 and US$37 a dose. "We will be responsible on price well below value during the pandemic," CEO Stephane Bancel said on a conference call, adding that larger volume agreements under discussion will be at a lower price.
Last week, Moderna announced the start of a late-stage trial on 30,000 people to demonstrate that its vaccine was safe and effective, the final hurdle prior to regulatory approval. It has said the vaccine could be ready for widespread use by the end of this year. The company, which ended the quarter with US$3.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents and investments, said it was on track to complete enrolment in the study in September.
Moderna said last month it plans to price its coronavirus vaccine in a way that ensures broad access and that it did not intend to conduct late-stage trials of the vaccine outside the United States. "As we pivot to a commercial stage company, we recognise the need for responsible pricing in the face of the pandemic," Bancel said in a statement.
The company, which has no drug on the market, has received nearly US$1 billion from the US government under a plan to speed up vaccine development.
5 August 2020
GLOBAL COVID-19 DEATHS EXCEED 700,000, ONE PERSON DIES EVERY 15 SECONDS ON AVERAGE
WASHINGTON: The global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 700,000 on Wednesday (Aug 5), according to a Reuters tally, with the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico leading the rise in fatalities.
Nearly 5,900 people are dying every 24 hours from COVID-19 on average, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the past two weeks.
That equates to 247 people per hour, or one person every 15 seconds.
5 August 2020
PROPORTION OF YOUTH WITH COVID-19 TRIPLES IN 5 MONTHS: WHO
GENEVA: Young people who are hitting nightclubs and beaches are leading a rise in fresh coronavirus cases across the world, with the proportion of those aged 15 to 24 who are infected rising three-fold in about five months, the World Health Organization said.
An analysis by the WHO of 6 million infections between Feb 24 and Jul 12 found that the share of people aged 15-24 years rose to 15 per cent from 4.5 per cent.
Apart from the United States which leads a global tally with 4.8 million total cases, European countries including Spain, Germany and France, and Asian countries such as Japan, have said that many of the newly infected are young people.
"Younger people tend to be less vigilant about masking and social distancing," Neysa Ernst, nurse manager at Johns Hopkins Hospital's biocontainment unit in Baltimore, Maryland told Reuters in an email.
"Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19," she said, adding young people are more likely to go to work in the community, to a beach or the pub, or to buy groceries.
3 August 2020
ALL INCOMING TRAVELLERS, INCLUDING RETURNING RESIDENTS, LONG-TERM PASS HOLDERS, WORK PASS HOLDERS AND THEIR DEPENDANTS, SERVING THEIR STAY-HOME NOTICE OUTSIDE OF DEDICATED FACILITIES TO DON ELECTRONIC MONITORING DEVICE
As Singapore gradually reopens its borders to international travel, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) will introduce an additional measure to enhance compliance with the Stay-Home Notice (SHN) regime and thereby reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by incoming travellers to the local community.
With effect from 10 August 2020, 2359hrs, all incoming travellers, including Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents, Long-Term Pass holders Work Pass holders and their dependants, entering Singapore who are serving their SHN outside of SHN dedicated facilities (SDFs) will need to don an electronic monitoring device throughout the 14-day SHN. Those aged 12 and below will be exempted from this requirement.
On arrival in Singapore, travellers serving their SHN at their place of residence will be issued with an electronic monitoring device at the checkpoints, after immigration clearance. They will need to activate the electronic monitoring device upon reaching their place of residence. If the device is not activated as required, the authorities will follow up to determine their location, and assist to resolve any technical difficulties, or take enforcement action, as the case may be.
During the 14-day period, persons wearing these devices may receive notifications on these devices and need to acknowledge them in a timely manner. Any attempt to leave the place of residence or tamper with the electronic device will trigger an alert to the authorities, who will conduct follow-up investigations, except when the person is leaving his/her place of residence for his/her appointment for the COVID-19 test. After serving their SHN, they need to deactivate the device and dispose of or return it in accordance with the instructions.
The devices use GPS and 4G/Bluetooth signals to determine if persons on SHN are within the range of their place of residence. The devices do not store any personal data and do not have any voice/video recording function. Data transmitted from the devices to the authorities’ backend system, such as the GPS and 4G/Bluetooth signal data, is protected by end-to-end certificate-based encryption.
3 August 2020
MCCY TO PILOT INCREASED LIMIT FOR WORSHIP SERVICES FROM 7 AUGUST 2020
As part of the gradual resumption of religious activities, MCCY will pilot an increase in limit for congregational and other worship services, from 50 persons to 100 persons in some places of worship.
3 August 2020
As part of the gradual resumption of religious activities, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) will pilot an increase in limit for congregational and other worship services, from 50 persons to 100 persons in some places of worship.
From 7 August 2020, 12 selected religious organisations (ROs) will be allowed to accommodate up to 100 persons at any one time for congregational and other worship services, with necessary precautions in place to safeguard public health. This pilot will include the implementation of two zones of up to 50 persons each for congregational and other worship services in 9 of the 12 ROs.
MCCY has consulted religious leaders, who are also members of the National Steering Committee (NSC) on Racial and Religious Harmony2, to identify the ROs for the pilot. The pilot sites reflect the diversity of religious practices and worship settings in Singapore. The participating ROs must have first safely conducted congregational and other worship services for up to 50 persons under the guidelines for Phase Two.
UPDATE ON CONDITION OF CONFIRMED CASES IN SINGAPORE
As of 10 August 2020, 12pm, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed and verified an additional 188 cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore. The breakdown of the cases is as follows:
Imported cases: 12 (4 Singaporeans/ Permanent Residents, 1 Work Pass holder, 4 Work Permit holders, 3 Dependant’s Pass holders)
Amongst the 12 imported cases, 4 (Cases 55205, 55284, 55286 and 55336) are Singaporeans/ Permanent Residents who returned to Singapore on 29 July from India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Another 5 (Cases 55283, 55287, 55353, 55354 and 55355) are Work Pass/ Work Permit holders who are currently employed in Singapore. They arrived in Singapore from the Philippines on 29 July. The remaining 3 (Cases 55226, 55285 and 55328) are Dependant’s Pass holders who arrived from India on 27 July and 28 July.
All of them had been placed on 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) upon arrival in Singapore, and were serving their SHN at dedicated facilities. They had been tested while serving their SHN.
Cases in the community: 1 (1 Singaporean)
There is 1 case in the community today (Case 55350) who had been identified as a contact of a previously confirmed case, and had been placed on quarantine earlier. He was tested during quarantine to determine his status.
Overall, the number of new cases in the community has remained stable at an average of 2 cases per day in the past 2 weeks. The number of unlinked cases in the community has also remained stable at an average of 1 case per day in the past 2 weeks.
Cases residing in dormitories: 175
The Inter-agency Taskforce has completed the testing of all workers in the dormitories. There are currently about 23,300 workers who are still serving out their quarantine period. These workers will be tested when their isolation ends, and we expect the case counts to remain high in the coming days, before tapering down thereafter.
Of the new cases, 99% are linked to known clusters, while the rest are pending contact tracing.
The Inter-agency Taskforce has completed the clearing of dormitories through aggressive testing of workers. The following dormitories have been cleared, and now house only recovered individuals and those who have recently tested negative for COVID-19 infection. As such, the clusters have now been closed.
- Avery Lodge Dormitory (2D Jalan Papan)
- Cassia @ Penjuru (15 Penjuru Walk)
- CDPL Tuas Dormitory (6 Tuas South Street 15)
- Tuas South Dormitory (1 Tuas South Street 12)
Update on Condition of Confirmed Cases
694 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 49,609 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities.
There are currently 112 confirmed cases who are still in hospital. Of these, most are stable or improving, and none is in the intensive care unit. 5,544 are isolated and cared for at community facilities. These are those who have mild symptoms, or are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19. 27 have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection.