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Covid-19: Senior-centric activities suspended for 14 days; 6 new cases in Singapore

TO REDUCE the risk of Covid-19 transmission among older residents, all senior-centric activities held by government agencies will be suspended for 14 days from March 11 to March 24, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Tuesday. More social-distancing measures are also being considered by the multi-ministry taskforce on Covid-19.

As of  noon on Tuesday,  the number of cases in Singapore had risen by six to 166; of this number,  93 have fully recovered and 73 remain in hospital, including 13 in intensive care.

The senior-centric activities being suspended include those held by community clubs (CCs) and residents' committees (RCs), Senior Activity Centres, Active Ageing Hubs, CREST centres, the Health Promotion Board and ActiveSG sport centres. Care services for seniors will continue, including those offered in nursing homes, home-based care and senior care centres.

"The multi-ministry taskforce is now also assessing the situation locally as well as globally, and is studying a broader range of social-distancing measures that we might take to  further slow down the spread of the virus," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the taskforce.

The full range of measures being considered include those applying to public events, school closures,  workplace social-distancing such as staggered hours or telecommuting, and religious services, said taskforce co-chair Lawrence Wong, who is Minister for National Development.

But he noted that applying many measures at once would result in the country grinding to a halt, while introducing some too early could lead to fatigue and an inability to sustain them. The idea would be to apply appropriate measures from time to time as "circuit breakers", he said.

Some measures would be temporary or for discrete time periods. Others - such as improved hygiene measures in the SG Clean campaign - should be permanent and part of Singapore's way of life, he added.

While additional border controls are not being ruled out, "border controls will become less relevant and effective" as Covid-19 spreads globally, because Singapore cannot simply shut itself off from the rest of the world, he added. There is thus a need to double-down on measures within Singapore.

Mr Gan highlighted the "socially irresponsible actions of a few individuals", noting that about 35 of Singapore's 160 confirmed cases as of Monday had not minimise social contact even after developing fever or respiratory symptoms.

He also urged the public not to doctor-hop. Of the confirmed cases, 38 had visited more than one general practitioner. Eight of these patients had visited three or more.

Many of the confirmed Covid-19 cases over the weekend were linked to the SAFRA Jurong cluster -- Singapore's largest cluster of cases -- and social activities, said the MOH. On March 7, the MOH had called for a 14-day suspension of all activities and classes in CCs and RCs in which those confirmed Covid-19 cases had participated, and singing classes in the affected CCs and RCs.

With the new 14-day suspension of all senior-centric activities, organisers will also put in place additional precautionary measures before activities resume, including smaller group sizes and increasing the frequency of sanitising.