At least half of new coronavirus cases in Singapore do not show any symptoms, the co-head of the city-state’s coronavirus taskforce told Reuters on Monday.
Singapore has reported over 38,000 cases of coronavirus as cramped conditions exacerbate coronavirus outbreaks in the small nation.
“Based on our experience, for every symptomatic case you would have at least one symptomatic case,” said Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s National Development Minister and co-chair of the COVID-19 taskforce.
The discover was unearthed as the country has begun ramping up testing in recent weeks, he added.
“That is exactly why we have been very cautious in our reopening plans,” Wong added.
Singapore reopened schools and some businesses last week after nearly two-months of lockdown, but social distancing is still in place, with many required to continue working from home and socialize only with their families.
Authorities have yet to report how many asymptomatic cases have been recorded.
China said 300 symptomless COVID-19 carriers in its central city of Wuhan, the pandemic epicenter, had not been found to be infectious. But some experts say asymptomatic infections are common, making for a huge challenge in controlling the disease as countries start exiting lockdowns.
Wong said that while asymptomatic individuals had fewer opportunities to spread the virus as they were not coughing or sneezing, there have been cases of asymptomatic transmission in Singapore, especially between patients living in close quarters.
“People have commented - why are we not reopening the economy faster?” Wong said. “We have to take a more cautious approach. There are still asymptomatic cases which we may not have detected circulating in the community.”
Authorities plan to combat the spread of the virus by giving all of its 5.7 million residents a Bluetooth device to carry to help trace interactions with virus carriers.
The first of these devices will be rolled out by the end of the month. Wong stressed that the government would ensure confidentiality of any data collected.