Singapore reports biggest single-day coronavirus spike in 'second wave' outbreak

The city-state was initially praised for its effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic but is now facing a significant second wave.

People, wearing face masks, walk past a shopping mall  in Singapore, 7 April 2020.

People, wearing face masks, walk past a shopping mall in Singapore, 7 April 2020. Source: AAP

Singapore has reported a record daily jump of more than 1,400 coronavirus cases, taking its total to over 8,000, with almost all new infections linked to dormitories housing foreign labourers.

The city-state was initially successful in keeping its outbreak in check with a strict regime of testing and contact-tracing but is now facing a fast-moving second wave

Health authorities in the financial hub, which now has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, reported 1,426 new cases on Monday, taking its total to 8,014, including 11 deaths.

Cases have surged since authorities started carrying out widespread testing of foreign workers living in crowded dormitory complexes, many of whom are construction workers from South Asia.

Labourers are seen along stairwells at the North Coast Lodge foreign worker dormitory.
Source: EPA

Around 200,000 workers live in dorms and typically toil for long hours earning in the region of $400 to $500 a month building the city-state's glittering skyscrapers and shopping malls.

Following criticism of poor living conditions in the dorms, the government moved thousands of workers to other sites - including apartments and floating accommodation usually used in offshore industries - to try to lessen the chances of infection.

Several dormitories with serious outbreaks have been quarantined, with workers not allowed to leave the premises for two weeks. The government is providing meals, and cleaning services have been ramped up.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that the number of foreign workers found to have contracted COVID-19 is likely to rise further as more are tested.

A labourer at the Mandai Lodge foreign worker dormitory.
Source: EPA

"Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild because the workers are young," he wrote on Facebook.

While the government is working to stop transmission in the dorms "it will take some time to show results, so we must expect to see more dorm cases for while longer", he said.

The city-state this month introduced tough restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus, including closing schools and advising people to stay at home. 

Since then, the number of new infections reported among Singaporeans has slowed - only 16 of the cases reported on Monday were citizens or people holding permanent residency status.

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Published 20 April 2020 at 9:36pm, updated 21 April 2020 at 5:51am
Source: AFP - SBS