Coronavirus cases more than doubled in 14 US states in the month of June, including California, Florida and Texas, a Reuters analysis on Tuesday (June 30) showed.
Arizona recorded the biggest jump in cases for the month at 294 per cent, followed by South Carolina at 200 per cent and Arkansas at 179 per cent.
Cases also more than doubled in Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.
Nationally cases rose by at least 46 per cent and deaths increased by 21 per cent. A few states have yet to report cases on Tuesday.
While much of the world appears over the worst of the pandemic, the United States and a few other countries are still seeing huge daily spikes.
In the six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) first reported a cluster of mysterious pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, more than 500,000 people have died from the coronavirus, including over 126,000 Americans.
A strong national response, stringent lockdowns and mandatory mask wearing in public helped bring the pandemic under control in much of Asia and Europe. In the US, wearing masks has become a divisive political issue and many states began reopening businesses without having met government health benchmarks for doing so safely.
In the past week, 21 US states reported rates of people testing positive for the virus above the 5 per cent level that the WHO has flagged as concerning. Arizona has the highest rate in the country at 24 per cent.
Cases increased by less than 10 per cent in June in just four states - New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.
New York, once the epicentre of the US epidemic, saw cases rise by about 6 per cent in June - the lowest rate in the country - after strict lockdown and social distancing measures were put in place to help bring the disease under control.
WASHINGTON - When negotiators from the United States and Russia met in Vienna last week to discuss renewing the last major nuclear arms control treaty that still exists between the two countries, US officials surprised their counterparts with a classified briefing on new and threatening nuclear capabilities - not Russia's, but China's.
The intelligence had not yet been made public in the US, or even shared widely with Congress. But it was part of an effort to get the Russians on board with President Donald Trump's determination to prod China to participate in New START, a treaty it has never joined.
Along the way, the administration is portraying the small but increasingly potent Chinese nuclear arsenal - still only one-fifth the size of those fielded by the US or Russia - as the new threat that Mr Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia should confront together.
Mr Marshall Billingslea, Mr Trump's new arms control negotiator, opened his classified briefing, officials said, by describing the Chinese programme as a "crash nuclear build-up", a "highly alarming effort" to gain parity with the far larger arsenals that Russia and the US have kept for decades.
The American message was clear: Mr Trump will not renew any major arms control treaty that China does not also join - dangling the possibility that Mr Trump would abandon New START altogether if he did not get his way. The treaty expires in February, just weeks after the next presidential inauguration.
Many outside experts question whether China's build-up - assessed as bringing greater capability more than greater numbers - is as fast, or as threatening, as the Trump administration insists.
The intelligence on Beijing's efforts remains classified, a senior administration official said, noting that sharing such data is not unusual among the world's major nuclear weapons states. But that means it was given to an adversary with whom the US is conducting daily, low-level conflict - including cyber attacks, military probes by warplanes and Russian aggression in Ukraine. And that was before reports surfaced that a Russian military intelligence unit had put bounties on US and allied troops in Afghanistan.
The US official said the administration would try to declassify and make public some of the assessment about China.
Nuclear weapons have suddenly become a new area of contention between Mr Trump and President Xi Jinping of China, and there are many reasons to believe that even if the three superpowers are not yet in a full-scale arms race, what is taking place in negotiating rooms around the world may soon start one.
The Russians have publicly offered a straight, five-year extension of New START, which would not require congressional approval. But Mr Trump is clearly betting that he can find common ground with Mr Putin in confronting the Chinese.
Without question, the Chinese are improving their arsenal, and may be rethinking the idea of holding a "minimal deterrent" - just enough to assure that if they were ever attacked they could take out cities in Russia, Europe or the US.
But they have only 300 long-range nuclear weapons deployed, compared with 1,550 each that the other two superpowers are allowed under New START. So there is the very real possibility, experts say, that in any negotiation, Beijing will insist on quintupling its nuclear force before it agrees to any constraints.
So far, China has said it is not interested in discussing any limitations.
"The notion of trying to pull the Chinese into that agreement is, in theory, a good idea. In practice? Impossible," former defence secretary Robert M. Gates said this month at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
"The Chinese have no incentive whatsoever to participate," said Mr Gates, who as CIA director confronted China over its sale to Iran of missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. And if Mr Trump continues on the current course, Mr Gates said, he will end up essentially inviting "the Chinese to build dramatically more, far more, nuclear weapons than we think they have at the current time to get level with the United States".
Nuclear weapons are joining the panoply of issues - including trade deals, banning Chinese students and wiring the world for 5G networks - that Mr Trump has put at the centre of a series of US-China standoffs.
Mr Trump is no student of nuclear history, but in some ways he is replaying a moment from the 1960s, when late Chinese leader Mao Zedong was seeking nuclear weapons.
President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration briefly considered inviting the Soviets to participate in a joint strike at Lop Nor, the Chinese nuclear testing site, to prevent the country from joining the nuclear club.
But the Americans abandoned the idea, determining it was simply too dangerous. A top secret State Department study, since declassified, concluded in April 1964 that the risk of a Chinese nuclear capability "is not such as to justify the undertaking of actions which would involve great political costs or high military risks".
The US has lived with a Chinese "minimal deterrent" for 56 years.
Now Mr Billingslea argues that new activities under way at Lop Nor, combined with China's far greater reach in space and at sea, once again put America at risk. The Chinese, not surprisingly, blame the US, saying the American focus on missile defences is forcing them to develop a counterforce of new nuclear weapons and missiles.
"If Beijing's concerns are left unaddressed, they will likely fuel more intensive Chinese efforts to modernise its nuclear forces and other strategic capabilities," Dr Tong Zhao , a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, wrote recently.
The roots of the revival of interest in building up nuclear arsenals go back to the passage of New START a decade ago, early in the Obama administration.
As the price of getting the treaty through the Senate, President Barack Obama agreed to a multibillion-dollar upgrade of the American nuclear complex, including production facilities that had been neglected for decades. At the same time, vice president Joe Biden, now Mr Trump's presumed opponent in the presidential election, said the administration would ask the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which former president Bill Clinton had signed but the Senate had never acted on.
Mr Obama and Mr Biden never sought ratification, realising they would lose. But the past four presidents have abided by the treaty's ban on nuclear tests. That may be coming to an end: Mr Billingslea confirmed that the Trump administration had discussed "unsigning" the treaty and debated whether the US should return to nuclear testing, which it has not engaged in since 1992. But he said there was no need to do so for now.
The US conducted more nuclear tests during the Cold War than the rest of the world combined. Over decades of experimentation, and more than 1,000 tests, its bomb designers learned many tricks of extreme miniaturisation as well as how to endow their creations with colossal destructive force. Compared with the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima, Japan, the nation's first explosive test of a hydrogen bomb, in 1954, produced a blast 1,000 times as powerful.
Because of that history, many nuclear experts now argue that if Mr Trump begins a new wave of global testing, it would aid American rivals more than the US.
"We lose more than we gain," Dr Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico and now a professor at Stanford University, said in an interview.
Beijing had conducted only 45 tests, he noted, and would welcome a resumption of testing to "increase the sophistication or perhaps the diversification" of its arsenal, "and that can only come back to be a national security risk for the United States".
Activity at the desert testing site in Nevada has soared in recent years. There is new drilling, construction, equipment, employees and periodic "subcritical" tests, just below the threshold of producing a nuclear explosion.
For years, some Republicans have urged preparations for a test and poured money into the effort. One instrument now being prepared for the Nevada complex costs US$800 million (S$1.1 billion); it would test the behaviour of plutonium.
Today, Republicans are still urging more upgrades and speedups, including at the Nevada complex. This month, Republican senator Tom Cotton, offered an amendment to a defence Bill that would add at least US$10 million to "carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test".
Top Democrats in the House told the Pentagon and the Energy Department in a recent letter that the idea of a renewal in nuclear testing was "unfathomable", as well as "shortsighted and dangerous".
But Mr Billingslea thinks he succeeded in getting the Russians to think about what is happening in China, not in the Nevada desert. During his meeting last week, the Russians were taking copious notes on China's buildup, while reviewing classified slides. He insists they want to sit down and talk more later in the summer.
They will do so without the Chinese.
Coronavirus: Doctors expect rise in acute respiratory infection cases after dip during circuit breaker
SINGAPORE - Doctors here say they expect more cases of acute respiratory infection (ARI) as Singapore's economy continues to reopen, following a drop in the number of such cases during the circuit breaker period.
Healthcare professionals reporters spoke to said there were a number of possible reasons for the fewer cases.
Dr Edwin Chng, medical director of Parkway Shenton, said the chain's 42 Public Health Preparedness Clinics saw an 80 per cent drop in ARI cases since the start of the circuit breaker, with each clinics seeing fewer than 20 such cases a day.
"This is probably because of the effective measures imposed by the Government during the circuit breaker," he told ST on Monday (June 29).
Dr Tan Liat Leng, a general practitioner (GP) at EH Medical Clinic, posited an alternate explanation.
"It could be because they're working from home and feel that a medical certificate won't make much of a difference, or because their symptoms are so mild, they prefer to treat it themselves," he said.
But a third possibility is that patients are afraid of the potential consequences of visiting a clinic while they have an ARI, said family physician Aziz Noordin.
Dr Aziz, who practices at Tampines Family Medicine Clinic, said many of his ARI patients told him they were hesitant to get checked up because they were worried about having to be tested for Covid-19.
"There's always a question of what happens if I'm positive, what happens to my family, my kids," he said, adding that such concerns need to be addressed.
Family physician Quah Soon Wee of Crossroads Family Clinic, which saw a 50 per cent drop in ARI patients over the circuit breaker period, shared the same theory.
"They may be afraid to get swab tested, or of having to take five day's medical leave," he said.
Patients with ARI have been the focus of Covid-19 swab testing as part of efforts to contain the spread of the disease here.
On June 2, it was announced that all students above the age of 12 and school staff with ARI would be tested upon seeing a doctor. On June 19, this was expanded to include those aged 45 and above.
Finally, on June 25, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said anyone aged 13 and up with ARI would be tested from July 1.
Since March, about 600 of Parkway Shenton's patients were swabbed for the coronavirus as a result of having an ARI. Thirty of these tests returned positive, said Dr Chng.
Northeast Medical Group's medical director, Dr Tan Teck Jack, said the group's nine clinics had also been swabbing about 20 such patients a day before phase two of Singapore's reopening, with very few of these tests coming back positive.
Since the reopening and activities started to pick up, his clinic has seen a 30 to 40 per cent increase in the number of patients with ARI.
"It appears that more people are mixing and getting an ARI because of increased human-to-human contact... This reflects the social nature of this disease," he said.
The doctors said that while the Health Ministry has set out general symptoms of ARI as being cough, sore throat, runny nose and loss of sense of smell, determining if one of these symptoms is due to an ARI and not something else is up to the individual doctor.
Dr Tan Liat Leng said that as GPs deal with ARIs most of the time, they are experienced enough to tell the difference.
He said: "It's about judgment calls and good history taking... We do exercise discretion in diagnosing an ARI as we understand that unduly diagnosing ARI when there's none might cause inconvenience to the patients - not only because of the swabbing, but the anxiety of waiting for the next few days for the test results."
He added: "If you have a cough, it's usually the case that you have an ARI. However, if it goes for very long with no fever, it could be due to something else, like an allergic reaction...
"To err on the side of caution, if there are more serious symptoms like fever or body aches, we will treat it as an ARI."
Other reasons for having ARI-like symptoms could include underlying conditions such as asthma or allergies, or a patient being a smoker, said Dr Quah.
However, he advised against patients self-diagnosing. He said: "The tricky thing about Covid is that a lot of patients present with very mild symptoms, so even a slight cough could be due to Covid. It's hard for patients to tell on their own, so it's recommended that they see us."
His sentiment was shared by Dr Aziz, who said some patients come in convinced that their runny nose is a result of them cleaning the house, or that their sore throat is due to eating too much durian.
"There are things that those with no medical background may not piece together. You may have eaten durian, but you may also have bought that durian from a supermarket at the same time an infected person was there," he said.
The doctors urged people with ARI symptoms to get checked, even if it means that they will get swabbed.
They all assured that the test is quick and relatively painless.
Dr Chng said: "Patients should not worry because Covid-19 testing is very quick and easy to do. In addition, anyone who is unwell should get tested for public health reasons. This will also allow him or her to receive the appropriate treatment needed and stop the spread to loved ones if tested positive."
Said Dr Tan Teck Jack: "If we have a second circuit breaker, it'd be very expensive and disruptive to the community. So it's socially responsible for you to present yourself to a doctor once you have a cough or cold, and let them decide."
Added Dr Tan Liat Leng: "Covid's danger is the fact that it tends to have complications at the late stage of the disease... So it's better to be diagnosed at an early stage, when you can be put under monitoring or isolation, rather than letting your infection fester."
SINGAPORE - One imported case was among the coronavirus patients announced in Singapore on Tuesday (June 30), said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The patient, a 44-year-old permanent resident, returned to Singapore from India on June 24.
She was placed on stay-home notice (SHN) upon arrival and had been ferried in a dedicated transport to an SHN facility to start her 14-day isolation. She developed symptoms during SHN, said MOH.
It is the first imported case since June 14, when a Bangladeshi man who came to Singapore to seek medical treatment that was not related to Covid-19 later tested positive for the coronavirus.
The woman was initially counted as a community case on Tuesday afternoon but later reclassified on Tuesday night as an imported one by MOH.
The five community cases reported on Tuesday are two Singaporeans and three work permit holders.
Among the two Singaporean patients, one was detected by the ministry's proactive surveillance of persons deployed to front-line Covid-19 operations, even though he is asymptomatic.
Epidemiological investigations are ongoing for the other Singaporean patient.
Among the three work permit holders, two had been swabbed as part of proactive screening of workers in essential services. The remaining case is asymptomatic and had been tested as he works in front-line Covid-19 operations.
Two of the five community cases are likely to be cases of past infections and are no longer infectious, the MOH said.
Meanwhile, four new places were added to the list visited by Covid-19 patients while they were still infectious. They are the Marsiling Lane Market and Cooked Food Centre at 20 Marsiling Lane, Sheng Siong Supermarket at 506 Tampines Central 1, One Supermarket at 201B Tampines Street 21 and Chang Cheng Mee Wah Coffeeshop at the Northlink Building at 10 Admiralty Street.
Those who were there at the time the patients visited should monitor their health closely for two weeks from the date of their visit. The ministry provides the list of locations that Covid-19 patients have visited for more than 30 minutes to get those who were at these places to monitor their health closely for two weeks from the date of their visit.
It has said that close contacts would already have been notified and that there is no need to avoid these places as they would have been cleaned if needed.
The full list can be found on MOH's website.
Migrant workers living in dormitories make up the remaining 240 cases, taking Singapore's total to 43,907.
The MOH also announced a new cluster in a dormitory at 20 Senoko Crescent.
Overall, the number of new cases in the community has increased, from an average of four cases per day in the week before, to an average of seven per day in the past week.
The number of unlinked cases in the community has also increased, from an average of two cases per day in the week before, to an average of four per day in the past week.
With 515 cases discharged on Tuesday, 38,488 patients have fully recovered from the disease.
A total of 215 patients remain in hospital, including one in the intensive care unit, while 5,166 are recuperating in community facilities.
Singapore has had 26 deaths from Covid-19 complications, while 12 who tested positive have died of other causes.
SINGAPORE - Prices of private homes slipped for a second straight quarter as demand was suppressed during the nearly two month-long circuit breaker period.
Flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Wednesday morning (July 1) showed its overall price index for private residential properties declined 1.1 per cent in the second quarter from the previous three months.
This comes after private home prices dropped 1 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, their first quarterly decline in a year.
“Last quarter, show flats were closed while house viewings were barred during the circuit breaker period. As a result, buyer demand was suppressed which will have a negative impact on home prices,” said Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie.
“However, it is too early to conclude that this is the beginning of a sustained period of price declines. We should be cautious in interpreting price dips in a volatile market, particularly when sales volume is low,” she said.
Prices of non-landed properties shed 0.6 per cent quarter on quarter in Q2 2020 after dipping 1 per cent in the previous quarter.
Giving a breakdown by region, the URA said that prices of non-landed homes in the prime areas or core central region slipped 0.1 per cent in Q2 2020, a smaller rate of decline compared with the drop of 2.2 per cent in the previous quarter.
In the city fringe or rest of central region, prices shed 1.9 per cent after dropping 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter.
In the suburbs or outside central region, prices were unchanged, against the drop of 0.4 per cent in the earlier quarter.
URA's flash data also showed that prices of landed properties fell 2.7 per cent in the second quarter of this year, after slipping 0.9 per cent in the first quarter.
Based on URA caveat data, the number of resale transactions inked in Q2 2020 is about a quarter of what has been sold in Q2 2019. Similarly, the number of new home sales transacted last quarter is about half of what was sold in Q2 2019, OrangeTee & Tie said.
Ms Sun, however, noted: "There is sporadic evidence of ‘green shoots’ in certain market segments and some buyers were snapping up relatively good bargains in the market over the past few weeks. Therefore, the price trends could be distorted by some of these properties or special-priced units."
“We should observe the property market for a few more quarters to ascertain if prices have bottomed. That said, prices of homes may remain soft in the coming months given the macroeconomic uncertainties," she added.
Ms Sun said she expects private home prices to weaken by 3 to 5 per cent for the whole of this year.
URA's flash estimates are compiled based on transaction prices given in contracts submitted for stamp duty payment and data on units sold by developers up till mid-June.
The statistics will be updated on July 24, 2020, when the URA releases its full set of real estate statistics for Q2 2020.
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WASHINGTON - A spike in US coronavirus infections is fuelled in large part by people ignoring public health guidelines to keep their distance and wear masks, the government's top infectious disease official said.
A daily surge in confirmed cases has been most pronounced in southern and western states that did not follow health officials' recommendations to wait for a steady decline in infections for two weeks before reopening their economies.
"That's a recipe for disaster," Dr Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters in an interview broadcast on Monday (June 29).
"Now we're seeing the consequences of community spread, which is even more difficult to contain than spread in a well-known physical location like a prison or nursing home or meatpacking place," Dr Fauci told the cable channel in the interview, which was recorded on Friday.
More than 2.5 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States and more than 125,000 have died of Covid-19, the respiratory illness it causes, according to a Reuters tally.
The US tally is the highest in the world, while the global death toll in the pandemic surpassed half a million people on Sunday.
California ordered some bars to close on Sunday, the first major rollback of efforts to reopen the economy in the most populous US state, following Texas and Florida ordering the closure of all their bars on Friday. Arizona and Georgia are among 15 states that had record increases in cases last week.
US Vice-President Mike Pence on Sunday pressed Americans to adopt face masks during a trip to Texas and wore one himself, a sharp turnaround for the administration. Republican President Donald Trump has refused to cover his face in public.
Mr Pence and other top health officials were expected to visit Arizona and Florida later this week.
In places where cases are soaring, US health officials are also considering "completely blanketing these communities with tests", Dr Fauci said, to try to get a better sense of an outbreak.
They would either test groups, or "pools", of people or have community groups do contact tracing in person rather than by phone. Contact tracing involves identifying people who are infected and monitoring people who may have been exposed and asking them to voluntarily go into quarantine.
Dr Fauci said that he was optimistic that a vaccine could be available by year's end but that it was unclear how effective it would prove to be, adding that no vaccine would be 100 per cent effective and citing challenges to achieve so-called herd immunity.
The top Republican in the US House of Representatives, Mr Kevin McCarthy, on Monday stressed individual actions to stop the spread of the virus, deflecting criticism from Democrats and some health experts that Mr Trump botched the prevention effort.
"You can't say the federal government should do everything, and then say the federal government can't tell the states what to do," Mr McCarthy told reporters. "The governors have a big responsibility here but every American has a responsibility.
"They should wear a mask."
LONDON - Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the coronavirus crisis had been a disaster for the United Kingdom and while the government would look at what went wrong, it was not the right time to have an inquiry into missteps.
"This has been a disaster," Mr Johnson told Times Radio. "Let's not mince our words. I mean this has been an absolute nightmare for the country and the country has gone through a profound shock."
Mr Johnson, who spent time in intensive care battling Covid-19, said the government owed it to all those who have died and suffered to look at exactly "what went wrong and when".
"I totally understand that and we will. I happen to think that the moment is not right now, ... when everybody is flat out, I don't think the moment is right now for consecrating a huge amount of official time to all of that.
"But we are learning lessons the whole time."
Asked about his senior adviser Dominic Cummings, he said: "Dom is outstanding."
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said on Monday (June 29) Johnson has been asleep at the wheel during the coronavirus crisis and had been far too slow to make major decisions.
"I think the Prime Minister has been asleep at the wheel. He has been slow, the comms, the communications has been terrible," Mr Starmer told ITV.
"It began to break down frankly when Dominic Cummings put forward a ridiculous defence of what he had done in the north-east," referring to Mr Cummings' controversial 400km trip from London to Durham, in north-east England, with his wife and son at the end of March during a national lockdown.
News of the trip triggered a storm of criticism and calls for Mr Johnson to sack Mr Cummings. Mr Johnson has stood by his key aide.
"They haven't done the groundwork on test, trace and isolate," Mr Starmer said.
Mr Johnson also said reports of him looking wraith-like were nonsense.
"When I came out of hospital, I did notice there were occasional pieces in the papers saying I was looking a bit wraith-like, or something someone said," he told Times Radio.
"Complete nonsense I want you to know.
"I am feeling very well, yes thank you, again thanks to our National Health Service."
Asked whether he thought every day about the high level of total virus deaths and infection rates in Britain, Mr Johnson said: "Every day ... what we've got is the curve going in the direction roughly that they thought it would. It is very slowly coming down.
"The crucial thing is to make sure that we're ready to crack down on local flare ups and that's why we have the wack-a-mole strategy."
Singapore has seen an uptick in community cases 12 days into phase two of reopening the economy, which will be a concern if the trend continues, experts said.
More than ever, people need to be vigilant and cautious, despite a clear sense of "crisis fatigue", with many keen to return to their usual habits, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
"This is when we need to be even more careful, when we collectively start to let down our guard," he told reporters.
.He stressed that the country is still very much in the midst of an outbreak and remains in Dorscon orange - signifying a disease situation with moderate to high public health impact.
This comes as cases soar worldwide, with over 10 million cases to date and many countries struggling with flare-ups as lockdowns are lifted.
"Globally the pandemic situation has only gotten worse, and not better," said Prof Teo on Sunday. "Certainly the situation in some countries looks like they are lifting lockdown even before they have properly contained their first wave of infections."
In Singapore, the number of new cases in the community has increased to an average of seven per day in the past week, from an average of four cases per day in the week before. The number of unlinked cases has doubled to four a day in the same period.
While the figures have been encouraging so far, with no significant spike in numbers, there is a long road ahead, said Associate Professor Josip Car, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, yesterday.
"The long-term impact of Covid-19... cannot and should not be underestimated; no one and no nation can afford to be complacent."
He emphasised the importance of scrutinising new unlinked community infections, which might indicate possible future trends the virus is taking; new clusters, as intermingling increases; and the profile of infected patients, which helps to identify at-risk groups.
Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said on Sunday that the country was now in a good position to handle any short-term resurgence in cases, given the low number of Covid-19 patients now needing critical care.
Noting that there had been no sustained upward trend so far, he said: "I'm very pleased with how the community cases have looked in June."
But phase two has not been without hiccups. The authorities have closed some outlets and meted out fines to those caught flouting the rules. All ActiveSG indoor sport halls were also closed on Sunday as a "time-out" after a Covid-19 patient and others played badminton in a large group - going against safe management measures. This suggests the need for more checks and enforcement, Prof Teo said.
"We should try to do better to identify such lapses in advance, and not wait until a case or, even worse, a super spreading event has occurred... As time passes, fatigue and hubris will set in... Checks and enforcement remind employers, operators and the public that we all need to continue to be on our guard."
Prof Car said such incidents will also teach the country how best to introduce more activities amid the pandemic, and whether Singapore can afford the potential risks such activities pose.
Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital, said yesterday that he was concerned about the crowding and lack of social distancing that he has seen first-hand.
"Before you get an increase in cases, you see an increase in risk," he warned. "People need to see what's happening now (the freedom to go out) is a privilege, and that can be taken away again."
As attractions such as the zoo and casinos gradually resume business from tomorrow, safe management practices must be strictly adhered to. Thinning of the capacity will help to minimise crowding, but the challenge is to ensure visitors observe safe distancing and to prevent bottlenecks.
Proper ventilation and effective mask usage, as well as regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as tables and railings, will also be critical for operators, Prof Car added.
Surpassing 10 million Covid-19 cases is a strong reminder that the virus should not be underestimated, and that the pandemic is still in its early stages.
Said Prof Cook: "Ongoing vigilance is required, it doesn't look like the epidemic is going away any time soon, unfortunately."
SINGAPORE - From maintaining flowering plants to caring for various wildlife to making sure that art pieces are kept at the right temperature, attractions in Singapore have been keeping busy though closed for the last few months.
The Singapore Tourism Board announced on Sunday (June 28) that 13 attractions, including the ArtScience Museum and Singapore Zoo, will once again be able to welcome guests from Wednesday (July 1). Most will be restricted to no more than 25 per cent of their operating capacity at any one time.
These attractions have been closed for nearly three months, since the start of Singapore's circuit breaker on April 7. Though shut to visitors, staff have still been working hard to make sure the attractions are well-maintained and ready to reopen.
Speaking to reporters on Monday (June 29) Mr Ng Boon Gee, senior director of conservatory operations at Gardens by the Bay said about half of his team of 20 staff were rostered each day to return to care for the various plants at the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.
Besides caring for the plants, Mr Ng's team also had to cope with supply chain disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The team was unable to procure certain seasonal temperate plants from Europe due to flight restrictions.
To overcome this, flowering plants native to colder climates were instead grown in-house in climate-controlled greenhouses.
Mr Ng said: "We are proud to say that the plants in our Flower Dome, such as sunflowers, delphiniums and foxgloves have been grown locally for the first time ever."
The Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay will reopen on July 11. Friends of the Gardens members will be able to visit from as early as Wednesday. Other attractions at the gardens, including the Cloud Forest and Floral Fantasy will remain closed until further notice.
At the ArtScience Museum, which is operated by Marina Bay Sands (MBS), galleries were secured with round-the-clock security.
An MBS spokesman said: "We also had to ensure that the environmental conditions in the galleries remained within the international museum standard parameters - relative humidity and temperature within the exhibition galleries had to be closely monitored and adjusted where necessary."
Artworks were also covered where necessary to avoid dust build up. The museum's technical team, conservators and registrars, conducted weekly inspections to ensure that the works were kept in excellent condition.
MBS said the ArtScience Museum and Sands SkyPark Observation Deck will reopen first to Sands Rewards members on July 1. Other venues within the complex, such as the hotel and Marquee nightclub, will resume operating later, in line with government guidelines.
At Resorts World Sentosa, the Universal Studios theme park and S.E.A Aquarium will reopen on Wednesday and Saturday respectively.
A spokesman for Resorts World Sentosa said a "lean team of unsung heroes" worked behind the scenes to maintain all the rides, facilities and infrastructure while the attractions were closed. At Universal Studios Singapore for example, engineers and technicians had to carry out regular safety inspections, maintenance and test-runs of all rides.
At the four parks run by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), including Singapore Zoo and the River Safari, almost half the company's 1,000 staff continued to report to work to ensure that the animals received the care and attention they need. No staff were let go during the circuit breaker period.
A WRS spokesman said: "Our four zoological parks are home to 15,000 animals, whose welfare is our foremost priority. They continued to receive the same care as when our parks are open."
During the closure, the animals continued to be released into their exhibits to exercise, socialise and forage. Their keepers also continued to stimulate them both mentally and physically through enrichment activities and positive reinforcement training.
The Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo will reopen to the public on July 6, while members will be able to visit from Friday. The Night Safari will reopen at a later date.
The WRS spokesman said: "We are excited to welcome everyone back. Until this circuit breaker, our four parks have not missed a day of operations in almost 50 years, so we have missed having people around."