SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has identified 11 COVID-19 cases from at least four different households living in Block 506 Hougang Avenue 8 — two of which were detected from a mandatory testing exercise for residents.

A total of 405 residents and visitors of the block were tested on Friday and Saturday, with only two found positive for COVID-19, said MOH late on Sunday (May 23) in response to queries by CNA.

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“We previously reported that 407 (polymerase chain reaction) tests were conducted for this block,” said MOH. “Upon further analysis, we can confirm 405 tests were conclusive and two test results rejected.

“The two individuals who received the rejected test results were reswabbed and found negative for COVID-19.”

READ: COVID-19–27 new community cases and 1 new death; mandatory testing for residents of Hougang HDB block

MOH and the Ministry of National Development said on Sunday that the positive cases were “largely” people under quarantine who turned positive for the COVID-19 virus.

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“This means that they have been isolated early and ring-fenced, and not likely to be moving around while being infectious. Nevertheless, MOH took all the necessary public health measures to prevent any further spread to the community,” the two ministries said.

The units with confirmed cases are in the same stack and the authorities said that their initial assessment is that “airborne transmission along the stack is highly unlikely”.

Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to determine linkages and the source of transmission, they added.

In the meantime, authorities said they “are not taking any chances”.

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Responding to CNA’s queries, MOH said it carries out precautionary testing of residents in HDB blocks if investigators assess a possibility on-going transmission.

“There is no one single trigger. Risk assessment is based on a number of factors, such as the total number of cases within the block, the potential risk of transmission by these individuals, and likely modes of transmission,” MOH said.

READ: JEM and Westgate malls to be closed for 2 weeks amid ‘likely ongoing’ COVID-19 transmission: MOH

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has worked with the town council (TC) to step up cleaning measures to disinfect the block.

“At the same time, we are casting our surveillance net as wide as possible, including administering PCR tests for the whole block,” they said.

The ministries added that so far, this is the only Housing & Development Board (HDB) block in Singapore with infected cases seen in more than two households.

STEPPED UP MEASURES

Block-wide testing is also being carried out at Block 559 Pasir Ris Street 51.

The ministries added that NEA cleaning and disinfection works for the Hougang block and the Pasir Ris block were completed on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Particular attention was paid to frequently touched areas, such as lift surfaces, lift buttons, handrails, letterboxes, amongst others, they said.

“As a precautionary measure, NEA had also worked with the TCs to expand the scope of disinfection to include amenities in the vicinity that could be used by residents, such as playground and central refuse chute.”

RESIDENTS NOT UNDER QUARANTINE

The authorities added that the residents of these two blocks are being tested as a precaution, and residents are not under quarantine.

“They are allowed to leave their homes and continue with activities allowed under the prevailing Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures.”

The delivery of goods and services to these blocks can still carry on with appropriate safe management measures and mask-wearing.

“We strongly urge service providers to continue to extend their services to the residents and support our fellow Singaporeans,” the ministries said.

A round of misting using disinfectants is conducted along corridors at Block 506 Hougang Avenue 8 on May 22, 2021. (Photo: Facebook/Gerald Giam)

Member of Parliament Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied) on Sunday said he is aware that “some residents have been unable to receive deliveries like cooking gas cylinders over the last two days”.

“We have contacted the relevant company to encourage them to resume deliveries as soon as possible so that you can cook your meals. I understand that the instruction has been given by their management to resume deliveries,” Mr Giam said in a Facebook post.

A round of misting using disinfectants at common corridors and lifts was conducted by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council “as an added precaution”, after the swab testing operation was completed on Saturday, the MP also said.

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