Singapore is tightening distancing measures aggressively after identifying a jump in unlinked Covid-19 cases, as well as a cluster in Changi airport potentially involving the more virulent variant first discovered in India, according to preliminary test results.

The city-state reported 71 locally transmitted cases in the past week, 15 of which remain unlinked — a matter deemed “worrying” by Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s health minister. “We are in a state of heightened alert,” he said.

The increase in infections means “it is very likely that Singapore will not be able to meet the resumption criteria” for the travel bubble with Hong Kong that was meant to kick off on May 26, said Ong Ye Kung, transport minister.

Authorities are also in touch with organisers of upcoming conferences meant to be held in Singapore, including the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual Asian defence summit set for early June, and the World Economic Forum, scheduled for mid-August. 

“Organisers are monitoring the situation both globally and in Singapore very closely … [and they] will also take into consideration … whether or not some of the potential attendees … are prepared to travel,” said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the Covid-19 taskforce.

While Singapore’s daily number of new cases remains low by global standards, the increase in infections and the recent emergence of new clusters — including in a hospital and a port terminal — come after the daily number of locally transmitted cases hit zero or single digits for months.

“We need to act decisively to contain these risks as any one leak could result in an uncontrolled resurgence of cases,” the health ministry said.

The maximum number of people gathering in public or visiting a household will drop from five to two while all indoor dining will cease, with restaurants only offering takeout or delivery. Wedding receptions will not be allowed while the size of other group events and capacities at malls, museums and other venues will be tightened.

Working from home will once again become the default.

These measures will run for one month starting from Sunday and will be reviewed after two weeks.

The Changi cluster includes 46 cases and stems from an area handling arrivals, especially from south Asia, which has been hit hard by the Covid-19 Indian variant.

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