What’s Going On at Mandarin Orchard: COVID-19 Tests and Precautionary Measures

Mandarin Orchard / Facebook
Mandarin Orchard / Facebook

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The holidays were cut short for those who booked their staycations at Mandarin Orchard last week, when they were told to check out of the hotel.

On 19 December, 13 people who had previously served their stay-home notices (SHN) at the hotel were reported to have contracted COVID-19.

As a precautionary measure, hotel management stopped receiving new guests on the same day. They also informed existing guests to check out by 9 p.m. on 20 December.

13 imported cases contracted Covid-19 between 2 to 11 November

The 13 cases had flown into Singapore from 10 different countries, such as the United States, South Korea, Britain, Philippines and Bahrain. They were serving their SHN at the hotel between 22 October to 11 November.

They were reported to have been infected between 2 to 11 November.

Based on the test results, the 13 imported cases were observed to have high genetic similarity though they came from different countries.

In a joint statement by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) on 19 December, it was mentioned that the infections may have come from the same source.

Investigations are currently ongoing.

Serological tests of 11 Mandarin Orchard staff came back positive, indicating past infections

A series of measures were rolled out after the hotel was notified about the incident. One of which was testing all 571 staff of Mandarin Orchard for the coronavirus.

All 571 of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test results came back negative for COVID-19 infection. This means that there is no ongoing infection among hotel staff.

In the press statement by the MOH on 20 December, it was reported that serological tests of three staff came back positive, indicating likely past infections.

The following day on 21 December, an additional eight staff members had reported positive serological tests, bringing the total number of likely past infections to 11.

Epidemiological investigations for these 11 cases are currently in progress.

MOH is also testing the 11 cases identified close contacts as a precautionary measure. They are also conducting serological tests to determine if the close contacts could have been infected by the 11 cases.

As the PCR test results were negative for these 11 cases, they were not included in the daily case count as the infections were likely to be in the past. This is in accordance to World Health Organization’s (WHO) criterion, where only positive results from confirmatory tests, in this case, the PCR tests, are included in the case count.

Three serving SHN tested positive

Aside from the hotel staff, 394 people who were serving their SHN at Mandarin Orchard were swabbed too. Of these, three were tested positive on 20 December. They were sent to the hospital to seek immediate medical attention.

Mandarin Orchard / Facebook

As the three people had recent travel history, the MOH mentioned that these are likely to be imported cases.

The National Public Health Laboratory is conducting whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis to determine if they could be linked to the previous 13 cases.

Precautionary measures taken by Mandarin Orchard

The hotel highlighted that the people serving SHN are placed at a separate hotel tower. They are housed in 446 rooms on 28 floors.

Hotel guests stay in a separate wing. As such, there is no contact between guests and those serving SHN.

However, to err on the side of caution, the management requested for all guests to check out on 20 December. For those serving SHN at Mandarin Orchard, the hotel arranged for them to be transported to an alternative SHN dedicated facility.

In addition, the hotel has stopped accepting people on SHN since 13 December, as its contract as the dedicated facility expires at the end of December.

Restaurants and event spaces within the hotel were also closed.

To safeguard against their guests’ health, the management of Mandarin Orchard has also requested all guests who had stayed with them since 11 November to monitor their health closely for 14 days from their last date of stay.

MOH is currently conducting investigations on the hotel. No breach in operations has been discovered so far, as reported by The Straits Times.

Stay vigilant and keep our guard up

When interviewed by the press, Minister for Education, Mr Lawrence Wong, said, “What happened in Mandarin Orchard is yet another reminder that things can go wrong.”

He also emphasised that this incident should be taken seriously, and it serves as a reminder as to why we should stay vigilant, stay alert and keep our guard up.

It takes the entire nation to play a part in adhering to safe distancing measures. As we progress into Phase 3, it is with hope that we continue to remain cautious, so as to keep the pandemic at arm’s length.


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