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Singapore virus tally hits 24 with first local transmission cases

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore has reported six more cases of a newly identified coronavirus, including four domestic transmissions, taking its tally of infections to 24, the health ministry of the southeast Asian city-state said on Tuesday.

The outbreak has killed more than 420 people, spread round the world and fuelled fears for global economic growth, with rival financial centre Hong Kong reporting its first coronavirus death on Tuesday, only the second outside mainland China.

“Though four of these cases constitute a local transmission cluster, there is as yet no evidence of widespread sustained community transmission in Singapore,” the health ministry said in a statement.

All four cases were linked to a health products shop that primarily serves Chinese tourists, the ministry added.

The other two infections were in Singapore residents evacuated on Thursday from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have surfaced late last year in a market selling illegal wildlife.

“What we hope we will be able to do is contain the situation in Singapore,” said Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, the ministry’s chief health scientist.

“We have a small cluster, we should ring fence it.”

Earlier, Singapore had reported 18 cases of the virus, all with a history of recent travel to Wuhan.

One patient had been discharged and another could follow in the next few days, said ministry official Kenneth Mak.

“Five patients have oxygen to support breathing but … none are critically ill,” added Mak, the ministry’s director of medical services.

The situation called for close monitoring, Tan said.

“What will be really important is how the very extensive measures that have been taken in China to contain the infection … pan out over the next few weeks,” he said.

“But we need to monitor the situation very closely, it’s very dynamic.”

The travel and tourism hub has banned entry to Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China in some of the most far-reaching moves worldwide to deter the disease.

Chinese nationals make up the largest share of visitors to Singapore, which was among the countries outside China worst hit in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed 800 people globally.

(This story corrects slug.)

Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez