SINGAPORE: Five people have died from dengue this year, as the number of cases weekly “remain high”, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Monday (Apr 6).
As of 3pm last Friday, there were 5,033 dengue cases in Singapore this year – more than double the reported number of cases in the same period in 2019. Three people died from dengue in the same period last year.
“The number of weekly dengue cases remain high, and continues to be a serious public health concern,” the agency said in its media release.
The five people who died were aged between 60 and 80 years old, and all lived or worked within dengue cluster areas, NEA said.
According to the NEA website on Monday, 110 dengue clusters have been identified. The biggest cluster, with 182 cases, includes several blocks in Jurong West Street 91, Jurong West Street 92, Yunnan Crescent, Yunnan Road, Yunnan Walk 2 and Yunnan Walk 3.
“The annual National Dengue Prevention Campaign was launched on Mar 22, ahead of the traditional mid-year peak dengue season, to rally the community to take urgent action to fight dengue,” the agency wrote on its website.
“The campaign has been brought forward as dengue cases, in particular those due to DENV-3, and the Aedes aegypti mosquito population continue to remain high.”
Dengue virus serotype 2 (DENV-2) is the more predominant strain in Singapore, but there has been an increase in dengue virus serotype 3 (DENV-3) cases lately, NEA said last month.
It said the rise in proportion of DENV-3 cases is of concern, "as we have not had dengue outbreaks driven by DENV-3 in Singapore for almost three decades".
NEA said on Monday the “unusually high number” of dengue cases outside the typical peak season – between May and September – could create a “momentum of transmission” that may lead to more cases with the warmer months ahead.
ENFORCEMENT DURING CIRCUIT BREAKER PERIOD
Businesses and premises owners should continue to ensure “adequate vector control measures” are taken at all premises under their responsibility, even during the period of the circuit breaker measures, NEA said.
These measures, meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, will take effect from Tuesday until May 4, and will affect construction sites, offices and commercial buildings, shops, entertainment outlets, nurseries, farms, schools, and places of worship.
NEA has also reached out to members of the Inter-Agency Dengue Taskforce, Singapore Contractors Association and operators of dormitories for vector control activities to be sustained during this period.
The agency will continue to conduct inspections and enforcement action to reduce dengue transmission during this period, it added.
“Recognising the concerns arising from the COVID-19 situation, NEA has since put in place measures to ensure that NEA officers performing dengue home inspections are healthy and fit for work,” it said.
“Besides taking temperature twice a day, other measures include maintaining good personal and hand hygiene at all times, like sanitising their hands before and after every home inspections, and adhering to MOH’s guidelines, which include not working when one is feeling unwell, maintaining safe distancing from colleagues and homeowners/ occupiers, and donning masks during the course of work.”
Businesses are encourage to ensure proper housekeeping within compounds and to carry out routine pest control checks.
Treatments used to prevent mosquito breeding should be sustained, especially at construction sites, even if these places are closed during the period of the circuit breaker.
As it happens: Heng Swee Keat announces third round of COVID-19 support measures in new 'Solidarity Budget'
SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is set to announce a third round of support measures to help tide businesses, workers and households through the COVID-19 outbreak on Monday (Apr 6).
The new "Solidarity Budget" follows the Unity Budget announced on Feb 18 and the Resilience Budget of Mar 26, and comes as Singapore closes schools and most workplaces for a month for the "first time in our history" to stem the spread of the disease, Mr Heng said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"The COVID-19 situation has taken a very sharp turn, both globally and locally," said Mr Heng. "Strong measures have to be taken to protect lives, but the economy has taken a hit as a result."
His speech will be carried live on CNA's Facebook page and YouTube channel, and on television.
Government will bring forward the S$300 Care and Support - Cash payout announced earlier and provide an additional S$300, bringing the total to S$600 for every Singaporean adult above the age of 21.
For the majority of Singaporeans who have provided their bank account details to the Government, the Solidarity Payment will be credited directly into their bank accounts by Apr 14. The rest will receive their payment by cheque, to be issued in stages later, starting from Apr 30.
Other cash payouts that earlier announced as part of the Care and Support Package will be brought forward from August to June.
The Self-Employed Person Income Scheme (SIRS) will be extended to automatically include self-employed persons who also earn a small income from employment work.
Current annual value threshold will be raised from up to S$13,000 to up to S$21,000, to include those who live in some condominiums and other private properties.
With these enhancements, a total of about 100,000 self-employed persons will automatically be eligible for SIRS and will receive three payments of S$3,000 starting from May.
Government's risk share of loans made under the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, Enterprise Financing Scheme - SME Working Capital Loan and Enterprise Financing Scheme - Trade Loan from 80 per cent to 90 per cent for loans initiated from Apr 8, 2020 to Mar 31, 2021.
The rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants of Government agencies will be increased from 0.5 months to one month.
Stallowners in NEA hawker centres will continue to enjoy three months of rental waivers, while commercial tenants will continue to receive two months of rental waivers.
The Ministry of Law will introduce a Bill on Tuesday to let businesses and individuals defer certain contractual obligations such as paying rent, repaying loans or completing work, for a period.
The Bill will also ensure that property owners pass on the property tax rebate in full to tenants.
To help firms that hire foreign workers on work permits and S-passes, the monthly foreign worker levy due in April will be waived.
As early as Apr 21, employers will also receive a foreign worker levy rebate of S$750 for each work permit or S pass holder.
The Minister for Manpower will share more details, says Mr Heng.
Government will raise its wage subsidy for all firms to 75 per cent of gross monthly wages, for the first S$4,600 of wages paid in April, for each employee.
In the Resilience Budget, the wage subsidy offered ranged from 25 per cent to 75 per cent (aviation and tourism sectors).
The first Jobs Support Scheme payout will be brought forward from May to April. Firms on GIRO and PayNow will begin receiving the first Jobs Support Scheme payout next week. Those not on GIRO or PayNow will receive their payouts by cheque, starting about a week later.
"I expect firms to make use of this JSS support to continue paying your workers and refrain from putting workers on no-pay leave during this period, or worse, retrenching them," says Mr Heng.
Singapore's overall GDP growth will take a further hit amid further restrictions made to fight the pandemic. But we must take these hard decisions, make the difficult adjustments and do all that we can in the next few months, to protect the lives of our people, says Mr Heng.
"We must take short-term pains, to avoid even sharper pain later. Let us all bear these immediate pains with fortitude, and stay strong," he adds.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is due to arrive in Parliament to announce further support measures to help tide businesses, workers and households through the COVID-19 outbreak.
The new Solidarity Budget follows the Unity Budget on Feb 18 and the Resilience Budget on Mar 26, and comes as Singapore prepares to close schools and most workplaces for a month for the "first time in our history", Mr Heng said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"The COVID-19 situation has taken a very sharp turn, both globally and locally," wrote Mr Heng on Sunday. "Strong measures have to be taken to protect lives, but the economy has taken a hit as a result."
LONDON - Initial tests in mice of a potential Covid-19 vaccine delivered via a fingertip-sized patch have shown it can induce an immune response against the new coronavirus at levels that might prevent infection, US scientists said on Thursday (April 2).
Researchers around the world are working to develop potential treatments or vaccines against the respiratory disease that has killed nearly 47,000 people and infected almost a million in just a few months.
A team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the United States said they were able to move quickly in developing a potential Covid-19 vaccine after working on other coronaviruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
"These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus causing the Covid-19 pandemic), teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus," said Dr Andrea Gambotto, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
"We knew exactly where to fight this new virus."
When tested in mice, the prototype vaccine - which the researchers have called PittCoVacc - generated what they described as "a surge of antibodies" against the new coronavirus within two weeks.
The Pittsburgh researchers cautioned that because the animals have not been tracked for very long as yet, it is too early to say whether and for how long the immune response against Covid-19 lasts.
But they said that in comparable tests in mice with their MERS experimental vaccine, a sufficient level of antibodies was produced to neutralise the virus for at least a year.
So far, the antibody levels of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccinated animals seem to be following the same trend, they said in peer-reviewed study in the journal EBioMedicine.
The team said they hope to start testing the vaccine candidate on people in clinical trials in the next few months.
The potential vaccine uses a needle patch design, called a microneedle array, to increase its potential potency.
This array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles made out of sugar and the spike protein, Dr Gambotto explained.
It is designed to deliver the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest.
Unless you truly enjoy isolation, staying home all day is often no fun. Which is why a number of companies have made their services free to keep those stuck at home entertained. While some might turn to e-books and streaming shows to stave off their boredom, others have turned to gaming.
Because of this, there has been an increase in the number of Nintendo Switches being bought, resulting in it being sold out on a number of platforms worldwide and the prices of the consoles left are raised significantly.
Due to this, a number of eager customers might have turned to platforms like Carousell to purchase affordable second hand Nintendo Switch consoles.
Only, these cheap and affordable consoles oftentimes end up being too good to be true as the Singapore Police Force has issued a statement on how there is a spike in scams involving the sale of the Nintendo Switch.
On their post, they offered the following tips:
Take it from us, the best place to get a Switch right now would be Qisahn, GameXtreme, Lazada, and Amazon. Prices are higher than the norm right now so best thing to do is be patient and wait for restocks.
Alternatively, do check out the free PC games and TV shows which you might want to consider as an alternative.
Don't get scammed!
SINGAPORE - A Bill will be introduced in Parliament next week to facilitate the temporary arrangements necessary for holding a safe general election while Covid-19 measures are in effect.
Responding to media queries about the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill on Friday (April 3), the Elections Department (ELD) said that the health and safety of voters, candidates and election officials are paramount.
ELD thus "must make contingency plans to put in place precautionary measures to ensure a safe election, should the next GE take place amid the Covid-19 situation".
"The Bill contains the necessary legislative provisions to allow ELD to implement temporary arrangements to ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials during Parliamentary elections held on or before 14 April 2021," it added.
The next general election must be held by April 14, 2021. The Bill, if approved by Parliament, will take effect before the next general election.
Details of the precautionary measures are not yet available. However, the latest Covid-19 measures, which limit gatherings outside of work and school to 10 people or fewer until April 30, mean traditional forms of campaigning like rallies will not be feasible, should these rules still be in place when the hustings begin.
MPs reporters spoke to have said they would turn to social media, messaging apps and even real-time video streaming to reach out to voters.
GENEVA: The head of the World Health Organization voiced deep concern on Wednesday (Apr 1) about the rapid escalation and global spread of COVID-19 cases from the new coronavirus, which has now reached 205 countries and territories.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that his agency, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund backed debt relief to help developing countries cope with the pandemic's social and economic consequences.
"In the past five weeks there has been a near-exponential growth in the number of new cases and the number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week," Tedros told a virtual news conference at the organisation's Geneva headquarters.
"In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths worldwide," he said.
China, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in December, reported dwindling new infections on Wednesday and disclosed for the first time the number of asymptomatic cases, which could complicate how trends in the outbreak are read.
Asked about the distinction, Dr Maria ver Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist who was part of an international team that went to China in February, said the WHO's definition included laboratory-confirmed cases "regardless of the development of symptoms".
"From data that we have seen from China in particular, we know that individuals who are identified, who are listed as asymptomatic, about 75 percent of those actually go on to develop symptoms," she said, describing them as having been in a "pre-symptomatic phase".
The new coronavirus causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
The outbreak continues to be driven by people who show signs of disease including fever and cough, but it is important for the WHO to capture that "full spectrum of illness", she added.
Tedros praised India's US$22.6 billion economic stimulus plan - announced after a 21-day lockdown imposed last week - to provide free food rations for 800 million disadvantaged people, cash transfers to 204 million poor women and free cooking gas for 80 million households for the next 3 months.
"Many developing countries will struggle to implement social welfare programmes of this nature," he said.
"For those countries, debt relief is essential to enable them to take care of their people and avoid economic collapse. This is a call from the WHO, the World Bank and IMF - debt relief for developing countries," he said.
But debt relief processes are lengthy, Tedros said.
"What we are proposing together with the World Bank and IMF is an expedited process to support countries so their economies will not be getting into crisis and their communities will not be really getting into crisis," he said.
SINGAPORE: Thinking that her newly hired maid was "smelly", a woman allegedly forced the 18-year-old woman to strip and shower in front of her.
Over about three months, 31-year-old Rosdiana Abdul Rahim allegedly abused the Indonesian helper, pinching her breast, kicking her private parts and trying to rip her clothes off in front of others to "humiliate" her.
The woman claimed trial on Thursday (Apr 2) to seven charges, including criminal intimidation, insulting a woman's modesty, using criminal force, voluntarily causing hurt and failing to give her domestic worker adequate daily rest.
The victim, who is now 21, took the stand on Thursday morning and gave her testimony through an interpreter, crying often at various points.
She described the alleged abuse that occurred between September and December 2017, ending when she made a police report.
According to the victim, she came to Singapore to work for the first time in September 2017 and began working for Rosdiana, her husband and their two children.
She claimed that she was paid S$600 a month but made to sleep at various points on a carpet or outside a toilet, without a pillow or blanket.
She also slept under a cupboard, and initially used her own batik cloth as a blanket, but Rosdiana threw this away as she said "it was smelly".
"Ma'am didn't believe that I showered daily," said the maid. "I said I bathe every day but she didn't believe me. She asked me how I bathe and shower myself."
EMPLOYER PUSHED MAID INTO BATHROOM
In November 2017, Rosdiana allegedly pulled the maid's arm and pushed her into a shower in the master bedroom.
"She used the shower head and turned on the water. I was still wearing my clothes at the time," testified the victim. "Then she took the shower head and spray all over me."
She said Rosdiana applied "a lot of shampoo" all over her head, before asking the maid to take off all her clothes.
"I removed my clothes. I was crying inside the shower," said the victim, her voice breaking and tears falling from her eyes.
She said she removed all her wet clothing, with Rosdiana seeing her completely naked.
She then saw Rosdiana's husband enter the room while she was still in the shower, but was unsure whether he saw her.
"Ma'am said - 'My husband won't be interested'," said the maid.
After this, she said Rosdiana would not let her change into clothes in the bathroom, but had to put them on in the bedroom while Rosdiana's husband was outside and could see her.
She felt afraid, alone and humiliated and felt she had "lost my value".
On another occasion in November 2017, Rosdiana asked for some food as she had eaten only four pieces of biscuits that morning.
ANOTHER ATTACK OVER INSTANT NOODLES
She ate half a portion of instant noodles meant for Rosdiana's son, and the boy's grandmother asked the maid to smack her own mouth 10 times and pull her ears 20 times.
When Rosdiana found out, she was furious, said the maid.
"She wanted to humiliate me in front of everyone. She tried to rip open my clothes, until some of the buttons were open," she said.
Rosdiana allegedly tried to remove the maid's bra from the back by reaching up under the back of her blouse, but the maid pushed her hand away.
According to charge sheets, a button came loose from her blouse and one of the bra hooks came off.
On another occasion, Rosdiana allegedly told the victim that "you are looking ugly" and asked her to fetch some baby powder.
She then spread baby powder all over her face, into her eyes, and asked her not to remove it, threatening harm to her family otherwise.
ROSDIANA ALLEGEDLY KICKED MAID'S PRIVATES
The victim testified that Rosdiana was upset with her on Dec 11, 2017, as she was not unpacking suitcases from a hotel stay quickly enough.
"She ripped my clothes - at the time I was wearing a T-shirt. She pulled the T-shirt, then she pinched my breast," said the maid.
"I tried to cover my body, because her husband was there. She said my breast was small unlike hers, her husband would not be interested," said the victim.
"She said my underwear, my clothes, are smelly. ... She kicked my private parts, and the second time she did, I almost tripped and fell," she said. "I was crying. I stood up and she continued scolding me."
The victim said she went to take clothes to change into, but Rosdiana slammed the cupboard door on her hand, knowing that it was there.
The trial continues in the afternoon.
If found guilty of insulting a woman's modesty, Rosdiana can be jailed for up to a year, fined, or both.
For voluntarily causing hurt to a maid, Rosdiana can be jailed for up to two years, fined a maximum S$5,000, or both.
The penalties for the above can go up to one-and-a-half times of the usual range as the victim was a maid.
If convicted of using criminal force, she can be jailed for up to three months, fined up to S$1,500, or both.
For not giving her maid adequate daily rest and ill-treating her, she can be jailed for up to a year, fined a maximum S$10,000, or both.
SINGAPORE: Online grocer RedMart will be suspending new orders for two days to tweak its product offerings and update its system, amid a surge in orders due to COVID-19 concerns.
In a letter to customers on Thursday (Apr 2), RedMart said that it will resume taking new orders on Saturday.
During this time, RedMart will make changes to the range of products available, a move aimed at helping ensure that delivery slots remain available and consumers "receive their essentials in a timely manner", it said.
Those who have already placed orders will still be able to receive them, RedMart said, adding that customers will not be allowed to add new items to their existing orders.
Consumers had earlier this week told reporters they were unable to secure delivery slots through various online supermarket platforms in recent weeks, as consumers turn to online shopping following the COVID-19 outbreak.
This came as the authorities on Saturday advised against "non-essential" trips to shopping malls, and for individuals to opt instead to buy food and groceries online as part of safe distancing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan announced that taxi and private-hire car drivers would be allowed to make grocery and food deliveries, noting the higher demand for such services.
In its message, RedMart said it has implemented several measures to handle the increased demand during this time.
This includes temporarily reducing the range of products available, and prioritising daily necessities such as rice, flour and eggs.
Delivery slots will also be assigned based on location, with only specific days and times available for each address.
In addition, RedMart will also limit orders to 35 items and bar customers from adding items once the order is placed.
Orders that exceed 100kg may be cancelled.
All deliveries will also be left at doorsteps to minimise physical contact, said RedMart.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and will take additional measures if necessary,” it said.
RedMart added that its staff, including delivery workers, go through mandatory daily temperature checks and sanitisation, and strictly adhere to hygiene protocols before and after each delivery, according to guidelines from the Health Ministry.
THE HAGUE - A 101-year-old woman who contracted coronavirus in the Netherlands has recovered, offering what her hospital said was "a spark of hope".
The woman, whose name was not released, was admitted to the IJsselland Hospital near Rotterdam a week and a half ago with breathing difficulties and tested positive for coronavirus.
She was kept in isolation but has now recovered enough to leave hospital. The centenarian, who lives independently, will rest in a nursing home before returning to her home, the hospital said on its website.
"She is a tough lady, and it's great to see her following the medical advice, like sneezing in her elbow and even telling me to keep proper distance," pulmonologist Sunil Ramlal said.
SINGAPORE - A 58-year-old taxi driver died after the taxi he was driving caught fire in Seletar West Link in the wee hours of Tuesday morning (March 31).
The police were called to the incident at 1.26am.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said firefighters put out the fire using two water jets.
The driver was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene by an SCDF paramedic.
ComfortDelGro group chief corporate communications officer Tammy Tan said the company is shocked and deeply saddened by the driver’s death.
“Our cabby suffered burns and (was) found outside the taxi,” she said.
“We are currently assisting his next of kin during this incredibly difficult time. Very little is known about the incident at this time and the exact cause of the fire is still unknown. We will be assisting the SCDF in their investigations,” she added.
The taxi was 3½ years old and last underwent servicing on March 19, with no major issues detected, she said.
In photos circulating on social media, the taxi is seen burning at the side of the road.
Another photo shows a blue police tent set up behind the taxi after the fire was extinguished.
The fire is being investigated by SCDF and the police.