SINGAPORE: The last COVID-19 cluster in a migrant worker dormitory has closed, meaning there are no active clusters in Singapore since the pandemic began.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the closure of the cluster at Cassia @ Penjuru dormitory on Tuesday (Nov 24), after 28 consecutive days with no new infection linked to it.
“With the closure of this cluster, there are no active COVID-19 clusters for the first time since Feb 3, 2020,” said MOH on Tuesday.
Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Singapore on Jan 23, the tally of cases has grown to more than 58,000 cases, with 28 fatalities from the disease.
The first cluster was reported on Feb 4, at the Yong Thai Hang Medical Hall, a Chinese medicine shop that primarily served tourists from China.
Three days later, Singapore’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level was raised from Yellow to Orange, as more local cases emerged without links to previous cases or travel history to China.
Soon more clusters sprung up, including at the Life Church and Missions Singapore, the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Grace Assembly of God church and the Seletar Aerospace Heights construction site.
Contact tracing efforts drew a link between the Life Church and Missions and the Grace Assembly of God clusters, with serological testing used for the first time to uncover the link.
In the first week of March, a new cluster linked to an event at SAFRA Jurong was identified. The cluster, which included several elderly people, grew in numbers throughout the rest of the month.
Even as more safety measures were enacted, including cancelling or deferring all ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more, the number of local cases increased and surpassed 200 infections by mid-March.
By the end of March, three people had died from COVID-19 in Singapore. Several new clusters are announced, including one at the S11 dormitory in Punggol.
This would become the first of dozens of dormitory clusters as the coronavirus spread across the dormitories.
There have been more than 54,500 cases linked to foreign worker dormitories, since the first two infections were reported on Mar 29.
The number of infections in the dormitories peaked at more than 1,000 a day, before it reduced slightly to hundreds of new cases daily.
Singapore entered a circuit breaker on Apr 7, with the aim of curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the community, while isolation measures were enforced to contain the growing clusters in the dormitories.
The cluster at the Thomson Lane branch of Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home was identified in April, the first involving a nursing care home.
As the circuit breaker continued, local cases started to decline, leading to clusters closing.
But in the dormitories, the rising COVID-19 cases did not ease immediately, despite stringent isolation measures and testing.
RE-EMERGED CLUSTERS ALL CLOSED
After months of testing and isolation, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Aug 19 declared that all dormitories were cleared of COVID-19.
But three days later, a new cluster was identified at Sungei Tengah Lodge, Singapore’s biggest purpose-built dormitory and one that was previously cleared of COVID-19 on Jul 21.
The new cluster at Sungei Tengah would grow to 216 cases.
Less than a month later, 21 new clusters were identified at dormitories that had been previously cleared of COVID-19.
The biggest of these new clusters was at Sungei Tengah, followed by Avery Lodge Dormitory, Westlite Toh Guan and CDPL Tuas Dormitory.
Stringent routine testing began and about 900 new cases in total emerged from these clusters.
It was “part of the plan” for cases to be detected through rostered routine testing, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.
READ: New COVID-19 cases at dormitories detected by routine testing is ‘part of the plan’: Josephine Teo
Hundreds of thousands of workers residing in dormitories were scheduled for rostered routine testing. Employers were warned by the authorities that workers who had not been scheduled for the testing were not allowed to return to work.
The daily number of new cases at the dormitories fell into the single digits, and on Oct 13, Singapore reported no new case there for the first time in more than six months.
READ: Timeline: No new COVID-19 case in Singapore’s dormitories for the first time in more than 6 months
New daily infections in dormitories then hovered between zero and two cases for the rest of October and into November, as MOH started closing the new clusters.
On Tuesday, the last dormitory cluster – at Cassia @ Penjuru – was closed, bringing an end to active clusters in Singapore.