Singapore has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus variant found in the United Kingdom, the city-state said, while 11 others who were already in quarantine had returned preliminary positive results for the new strain.
All the cases, which were imported from Europe, had been placed in 14-day quarantine at dedicated facilities or isolated upon arrival, and their close contacts had been quarantined earlier.
“There is currently no evidence that the B117 strain is circulating in the community,” Singapore’s health ministry said late on Wednesday, referring to the new, potentially more infectious UK strain.
Singapore has been conducting viral genomic sequencing for confirmed Covid-19 cases who arrived from Europe recently.
The strain was found among 31 cases from Europe, who arrived in Singapore between Nov 17 and Dec 17 and were confirmed to have Covid-19 this month.
The patient with the new variant came to Singapore from the UK on Dec 6, had been quarantined on arrival and tested positive on Dec 8. All her close contacts had been placed on quarantine, and had tested negative at the end of their quarantine period.
The health ministry said it had been able to ring-fence the case so that there was no further transmission.
Confirmatory results were pending for the other 11 cases.
Singapore has blocked visitors with recent travel history to the United Kingdom to prevent the new strain from spreading in the city-state that has reported almost zero new local infections daily.
Travelers from the United Kingdom visiting New York City will now be under a mandatory quarantine order, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.
De Blasio said that city sheriff’s deputies will be sent to the hotel rooms or homes of all people arriving from the UK to ensure they abide by New York’s two-week coronavirus quarantine mandate.
De Blasio’s decision comes in the wake of scientists’ discovery of a new, more contagious Covid-19 variant that has been detected in Britain.
“We cannot take chances with anyone who travels, particularly people coming in from the UK,” de Blasio said.
Anyone who comes to New York, regardless of where they travel from, must complete forms with their contact information as well as where they are staying. Those travelers will then receive a quarantine order by certified mail, the mayor explained. Travelers who do not follow the quarantine requirement will face a fine of $1,000-a-day, he stated.
“We don’t want to penalize people. Everyone’s been through hell this year,” De Blasio also said. “We don’t want to, but if you don’t follow quarantine you’re endangering everyone else in the city, right as we’re fighting the second wave.”
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said on Tuesday he had contacted airlines that fly to New York state from the UK – British Airways, Virgin and Delta – and that they all agreed to test passengers before they got on board.
“This UK variant news is a real issue. I want to make sure we understand it,” Cuomo said. “There’s been confusion in some of the stories I’ve read because it’s complicated. Boris Johnson shut down the UK one week after he said he would never shut it down for Christmas. The reason he shut it down, he said, and did a total 180-degree shift, was because they found a variant of the virus.”—AFP