TTSH Covid-19 cluster: Five patients have India variant of virus

SINGAPORE – The growing Covid-19 cluster at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has been fuelled by new, more transmissible variants of the virus, but vaccinations have protected those who got their shots, said the authorities.

More cases of the variants of concern that are circulating around the world have been detected here, said Ministry of Health (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak at a press conference on Wednesday (May 4).

These include the B.1351 variant that originated in South Africa, the P.1 variant that originated in Brazil and the new Indian variants believed to be behind the devastating second wave in India currently.

Among them, seven cases in three local clusters were found with the Indian variant, including five who are part of the Tan Tock Seng cluster – the country’s first hospital cluster now numbering 40 TTSH staff, patients and their relatives.

“The new variant strains have higher attack rates. They are more infectious and causing larger clusters than before. We must assume that there are still hidden cases out there in the community,” said Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the ministerial task force combating the virus.

The situation would have been worse if not for people getting their Covid-19 vaccinations, which have done “relatively well against the disease” in those who had received the full two doses, Associate Professor Mak pointed out.

Of the 40 cases in the TTSH cluster, nine people, mostly staff, had been fully vaccinated, and most had no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Those who were not vaccinated, however, were harder hit, with some needing oxygen therapy, he said.

Vaccination may not prevent a person from getting the disease but in the vast majority of cases, it will safeguard him from getting a severe infection.

Task force co-chair and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong made a call for people, particularly the elderly, who are more vulnerable to developing severe Covid-19 disease if infected, to get vaccinated.

“The next few weeks will be critical for us,” said Mr Gan.

“The silver lining is that we have successfully brought our cases down before and we can do it again.”

List of Covid-19 variants

A total of 29 local cases with the Covid-19 variants were detected, along with 475 imported cases. Here is the breakdown of the cases with the respective variants: 

UK Strain (B.117): detected in seven local cases and 181 imported cases, 11 of which tested preliminarily positive

South African Strain (B.1351): detected in eight local cases and 158 imported cases 

Three Brazilian Strains:
P1 (B.11281): detected in three local cases and four imported cases
P2 (B.11282): detected in one imported case
P3 (B.11283): detected in one imported case 

Four Indian Strains:
detected in 57 imported cases 
B.16171: detected in three local cases and 11 imported cases
B.16172: detected in seven local cases and 52 imported cases 
B.16173: detected in one imported case

B.1525: detected in one local case, and nine imported cases. It is unclear where this variant originated from.

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