The hunt continues for the so-called ‘patient zero’ who reportedly is responsible for spreading the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, to at least four people from Britain, Malaysia and South Korea after attending a business meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore.
Patient zero presumably passed on the coronavirus to a Malaysian businessman at the conference, who then passed it on to his sister and mother-in-law while visiting family in Malaysia.
The mysterious superspreader had reportedly infected two South Korean delegates at a gas analysis conference organized by British firm Servomex. The event was hosted at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and was held for three days starting from January 20.
It was reported that a British man who was also at the meeting went on to infect a British family of five who shared lodging with him at a French ski chalet weeks later. A man in Spain emerged as the next victim of the British superspreader, upon returning home after holidaying in France.
Finding patient zero is critical
According to the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), the missing link makes containment activities less effective. “We do feel uncomfortable obviously when we diagnose a patient with the illness and we can’t work out where it came from … the containment activities are less effective,” said Dale Fisher, the chairperson of the network.
The hunt for patient zero is crucial, as possible “chains of transmission” must be detected as soon as possible.
Experts claim spreader could have been anybody
It is assumed that this superspreader was solely responsible for the spreading of the virus. However, according to infectious diseases expert at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Paul Tambyah, anybody present at the hotel could have been the spreader – not necessarily a delegate at the conference.
“Everyone assumes it was a delegate but it could have been a cleaner, it could have been a waiter,” said Tambyah.
The Grand Hyatt Singapore had disinfected its premises after news of three of its guests contracting the virus had spread. However, the hotel’s management is not clear on “how, where or when” the attendees of the conference contracted the virus.
Singapore has reportedly been placed on international travel advisory for fear of the coronavirus, together with China and Japan. The total number of coronavirus infections in Singapore is at 50 people, as of February 12 – with eight of them in critical condition.