SINGAPORE — The World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating a conference held in Singapore in mid-January. Three foreign participants of the meeting — one from Malaysia and two from South Korea — have since caught the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The meeting of a multinational company, involving 94 overseas staff, was held at the Grand Hyatt hotel.
The dots between the Singapore conference and new cases of the virus were first connected by the Malaysian health authorities, when they confirmed the case of a 41-year-old Malaysian who had been at the meeting. They added that there were people from China at the conference, including one from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak.
According to South Korean media, the two Koreans and the Malaysian now infected with 2019-nCoV shared a buffet meal at the meeting.
Singapore staff at the meeting numbered 15. On Wednesday (Feb 5), four displayed symptoms of 2019-nCoV and have since been referred to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
The name of the multinational company or its particular industry have not been disclosed.
The fact that the three confirmed cases are linked to the meeting in Singapore is evidence that 2019-nCoV is spreading through human-to-human transmission outside of mainland China, said WHO.
It noted that this was “deeply concerning and could signal a much larger outbreak”.
“WHO is coordinating with relevant ministries of health in relation to it,” WHO spokeswoman Olivia Lawe-Davies told Reuters.
“As countries are stepping up surveillance, the detection of more cases of local transmission can be expected.”
Mr Gerald Kheng, a representative of the Grand Hyatt, said the hotel had been given a deep-cleaning after it was told of the linked 2019-nCoV cases by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (Feb 4). Mr Kheng said he was not aware of any cases of the virus among staff or patrons of the hotel.
Investigations by the WHO into the incident are currently ongoing.
Singapore’s current total of confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV stands at 33. /TISG