Singapore Struggles with Second Wave of COVID-19 with 900 New Cases

Singapore recorded nearly 900 new coronavirus cases on Friday as the country sees a second wave of an outbreak centered  around foreign workers. The country’s Ministry of Health reported  897 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours ending at noon local time on Friday. The large majority of new cases are work permit holders living in migrant worker dormitories. Thirteen of the new cases are citizens or permanent residents.

Singapore reported about 1,000 cases of COVID-19 at the start of the month, but that number has skyrocketed. Health officials now report more than 12,075 cases of the virus and 12 deaths.

While Friday’s new case count is high, it is the first time Singapore has reported fewer than 1,000 new daily cases in about a week.

Chan Heng Chee, Singapore’s ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNBC on Friday that the country “knew that the foreign workers would be a stress point” in its fight against the global pandemic.

Cases in Singapore spiked earlier this month and officials were able to trace the increase to a cluster of cases in worker dorms, where tight quarters and shared spaces increase the likelihood of transmission.

About 300,000 foreign workers live closely together in a few dozen dormitories.

Chee told CNBC that the first case of an infected foreign worker was reported on Feb. 8, and on April 3 just 36 cases were recorded among the workers.

“We did what we always do,” Chan said. “We test, we track, and we quarantined them, but later it just exploded.”

Chan said officials could have moved people out of the housing earlier, but he doesn’t think it would have made a difference in transmission. He pointed out that Singapore, with a population of 5.7 million people, is an extremely dense city, “and dense cities have a problem dealing with epidemics, with pandemics.”

Singapore has closed schools and non-essential businesses and has extended the social distancing measures to June 1.