Singapore has just confirmed 47 total cases of the Wuhan coronavirus. Several of these cases have no travel history to mainland China nor any relation with prior cases.
The Health Ministry raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from Yellow to Orange last week to prompt further state-wide precautionary measures.
An orange alert would have been similar in severity to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) outbreak.
The government’s new response level immediately sparked a supermarket run among residents for supplies such as instant noodles, face masks, toilet paper, hand sanitisers, and rice.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong subsequently addressed the island-state the next day to reassure citizens that the government is well-prepared to curb the outbreak and the country has sufficient supplies for everyone.
In his speech, he urged citizens to ‘take sensible precautions’ by practicing good personal hygiene, avoiding crowded spaces, and taking one’s temperature twice daily.
Lauded as a solid example of risk communications, PM Lee’s speech outlined concrete measures that citizens could take.
Doing so “handed back a measure of control to people whose sense of control will feel threatened”, Claire Hooker, senior lecturer at University of Sydney’s Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, told Bloomberg.
Singapore’s central business district and financial centre is also moving fast to curb the spread of the outbreak. Employees are being advised to work from home, avoid shaking hands, and are required to get their temperature taken prior to entering buildings.
These safety protocols came in the wake of newly confirmed cases at Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1 and Clifford Centre.
These buildings have subsequently been disinfected and their tenants informed.
Standard Chartered, DBS, UOB, and Rio Tinto Group have so far issued business continuity plans that include work-from-home arrangements, split shifts, cancelation of any large-scale events, increased sanitisation, and mandatory visitor declaration.
Home to one of Singapore’s three transmission clusters, Grand Hyatt Singapore has engaged a government-approved external agency to conduct thorough sanitisation of potentially impacted rooms.
Late last month, it played host to a 109-strong delegate as part of a sales conference.
An attendee from Wuhan later tested positive for the virus, along with nationals from Malaysia, Britain, and South Korea who also stayed at the hotel.
Oblivious to the two-week long virus incubation period, the middle-aged businessman from Sussex flew home and brought new clusters to the UK, France, and Spain.
Finally, in China, over 42,000 cases have been confirmed, with the death toll currently at over 1,000. Monday (Feb 10) recorded the highest single-day deaths so far at 108 fatalities, out of which 103 happened in Hubei province.