New coronavirus infection sparks fresh outbreak anxiety in Singapore

File photo of what’s labeled a positive COVID-19 test result. Photo: Prasesh Shiwakoti
File photo of what’s labeled a positive COVID-19 test result. Photo: Prasesh Shiwakoti

A 36-year-old man who dined at a family restaurant in Tampines just before developing symptoms has broken Singapore’s 13-day run of no local coronavirus transmissions, sending waves of anxiety among Singaporeans. 

The Health Ministry reported late last night that the unidentified marine service engineer was confirmed to be infected Wednesday, two days after coming down with a fever and sore throat. On Saturday, he had dined with 11 other family members at the Seoul Garden restaurant in the Tampines Mall, news that sparked jitters.

“Bloody hell. I’m damn pissed. That’s just being irresponsible and taking things for granted,” radio DJ Joakim Gomez reacted to the news on Twitter at around midnight. “1 unlinked locally transmitted case has come into close contact with 12 of his family members among the many others at Tampines Mall’s Seoul Garden.”

The ministry noted that an antibody test came back negative, indicating the man was recently infected.

The engineer’s 2-year-old niece had also been sick prior to the family dinner, where “they had occupied 3 tables and there was mingling between the groups,” the ministry said. This meant that the family may have also breached the COVID-19 law banning social gatherings of more than five. The whole family group has since been quarantined. The child tested negative for COVID-19.  

“Sorry. Kid didn’t [get it]. But still. Exposed the family to potential danger is very jialat lor,” blogger Lee Kin Mun, aka Mr. Brown, wrote online using Hokkien slang for when bad things happen. The blogger initially thought that the child had also gotten the coronavirus. The restaurant also become the topic trending topic on Singapore Twitter since the news broke. 

Seoul Garden is a major Korean barbecue restaurant chain in Singapore with several outlets across the country. It had not responded to Coconuts’ request for comment about its infected customer as of publication time. According to its website, it has implemented precautionary measures meant to keep diners safe from the coronavirus, such as restricting diners to only five people per table, suspending its buffet counters, and limiting dining to just 120 minutes. 

Singapore is currently in its second phase of dialing back COVID-19 rules and many were expecting to enter the third and final phase next month, during which larger gatherings would be allowed. But that depends on whether the rate of infection in Singapore will continue to slow down. 

Prior to the latest case, Singapore had not reported any domestic infections for 13 days. New infections have involved individuals coming from abroad. 

Singapore has reported 58,195 cases since the outbreak began in January. The official death toll stands at 28. 

Other stories:

COVID-be-damned Lazarus Island getaway ends up costing S$3K

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