Singapore — The findings of a National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) study state that those who got infected with Covid-19 linked to the Bukit Merah View Market cluster had a tendency of touching fruits and vegetables with their bare hands.
The cluster, first detected in Jun, spiked to a total of 94 cases and resulted in all 182 stalls closing for two weeks.
On top of being the largest active cluster in the country for some time, smaller clusters also formed within the market’s neighbouring blocks.
According to the NCID study, those who contracted the virus had three commonalities – they were unvaccinated, did not wear masks properly, and would touch fruits and vegetables with bare hands.
A part of the study had researchers interviewing those affected by the market’s closure, said Associate Professor Matthias Toh in a Straits Times report on Tuesday (Sept 7).
NCID’s executive director Professor Leo Yee Sin, also said that those who spent less time in the area were less likely to contract the virus.
“That’s a no-brainer. If you spend time in the epicentre, of course, the chances of you getting infected will be higher,” said Prof Toh.
Based on the study’s findings, stallholders might want to pre-package their produce to prevent transmission, she added.
“People who are patronising the stalls could carry their own hand sanitisers and sanitise their hands before touching the fruit and vegetables,” suggested Prof Toh.
“After that, they can also clean their hands again. This will not only protect themselves but protect the community as well.”
Prof Leo noted that the same practice should be applied in supermarkets, where shoppers also scrutinise fresh produce.
“The items that more people want to touch before they make a decision – those are the items we need to pay very specific attention to because that could be the source of transmission,” said Prof Teo.
In response to the findings, members from the online community wondered if the transmission was limited to fruits and vegetables.
“But we touch so many things at the markets, supermarkets lor, in fact everywhere we go! Everything we touch can be transmissible if one infected person does not clean his or her hands properly,” said Facebook user Hui Ling Huang.
“Doesn’t apply to just vegetables and fruits. The bottom line is to keep your hands clean.”
Others noted that the practice of touching fresh produce is common even when the pandemic just started and many were unvaccinated.
“This is absurd to say that touching vegetables could have led to spread. Come on, we have lived with Covid-19 since last year Mar and last year we weren’t even vaccinated; how do you explain the entire 2020 with people going wet markets daily and touching vegetables yet not spreading Covid then?” asked Facebook user Chan Kelly.
Still, many reiterated the importance of social responsibility in limiting the possible spread of the virus. /TISG
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