Singapore Confirms First Locally Transmitted Omicron Coronavirus Case

Singapore has confirmed its first locally transmitted case of Omicron variant of the COVID-19 in two persons, including a staff at the city state's airport.

The Health Ministry of Singapore issued a statement late on Thursday, saying that a 24-year-old woman, working in a service role at the airport, "may have interacted with transit passengers from Omicron-affected countries". According to the statement, the woman, tested preliminarily positive for Omicron, had received vaccine shots, and was asymptomatic.

Meanwhile, the second Omicron victim is a permanent resident who arrived in Singapore from France via Germany on Tuesday. He, too, was fully vaccinated. The Health Ministry stated that further genome sequencing would be done to confirm the variant.

Omicron variant
Omicron variant pixabay

Earlier, the authorities in Singapore had detected three Omicron cases, and all of them were overseas travelers. "Given its high transmissibility and spread to many parts of the world, we should expect to find more Omicron cases at our borders and also within our community," added the ministry. It further claimed that 96% of eligible Singaporean population already received vaccine shots.

Scientists, across the globe, are cooperating with the World Health Organization (WHO) to find out more information about Omicron, as its emergence has destabilized financial markets. On November 26, the WHO said that although Omicron could be detected through clear PCR tests, further studies would be required to determine the efficacy of other types of tests, including rapid antigen ones.

Singapore (Image courtesy: Twitter)

Dr Danny Tng, a senior Medical Officer at the Department of Infectious Diseases of Singapore General Hospital (SGH), stressed that local doctors started conducting a new test, as normal saliva tests were not reliable enough to roll out on a large scale mainly because of the concentration of viral particles in saliva "drops steeply" after having food. According to Dr Tng, the ability of other saliva Antigen Rapid Tests (ARTs) to detect the Sars-CoV-2 virus after food is just around 11.7% to 23.1%. However, the new test can be done at any point of time, even after having food. "Therefore, saliva antigen rapid tests are usually reliable only when they are performed first thing in the morning, after an overnight fast and before breakfast or brushing teeth. This makes testing of saliva samples at other times of the day less reliable," added Dr Tng.

Singapore has been using ARTs to detect new variants of the COVID-19 virus for the last few months. Now, the Government has announced that travelers would have to undergo rapid tests, using ARTs, upon their arrival in the island nation from foreign countries on a daily basis. On his Facebook page, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said that Singapore would soon launch COVID-19 vaccination program for children, aged five to eleven.