Singapore confirms 1st case of new coronavirus variant

Singapore has confirmed its first case of a new coronavirus variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom last week and is said to be more contagious.

In a statement late Wednesday, the Health Ministry said Singapore has been conducting viral genomic sequencing for confirmed COVID-19 cases who arrived from Europe recently.

Among the 31 COVID-19 patients who arrived between Nov. 17 and Dec. 17, one was confirmed carrying the B117 strain, while 11 others were found infected preliminarily, and their confirmatory results are pending.

All the cases had been placed on 14-day quarantine or isolated upon arrival, and their close contacts quarantined.

The patient with the new variant is a 17-year-old female studying in the UK since August 2020. She returned to Singapore on Dec. 6, was quarantined upon arrival and confirmed to have the novel disease on Dec. 8.

The Health Ministry said since she had been isolated upon arrival, “we were able to ringfence this case so that there was no further transmission.”

“There is currently no evidence that the B117 strain is circulating in the community,” it said.

Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, visitors with a recent travel history to the UK have been barred entry into the city-state, which has seen 58,482 cases and 29 related deaths. Citizens and permanent residents will be tested before starting the mandatory 14-day quarantine.