Singapore police probe karaoke bars after virus outbreak

People walk out of the SMRT subway train station in Chinatown district in Singapore on July 7, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Singapore, Singapore | Singapore police are investigating several karaoke bars for breaching coronavirus restrictions and have arrested 20 foreign women for alleged "vice-related activities" after an outbreak linked to the nightspots, authorities said.

The city-state reported 56 local transmissions Wednesday -- including 42 connected to the bars -- its highest number of daily domestic infections since September.

A staple of Singapore nightlife, the karaoke bars typically have blacked-out windows and are frequented by foreign female "hostesses".

Police said in a statement late Wednesday they were investigating three nightspots for breaching virus measures by allegedly providing "hostessing services". 

Under current virus restrictions, the bars were only supposed to be operating in a limited fashion, providing food and drinks.

Twenty women, aged 20 to 34, from South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, have been arrested for "suspected involvement in vice-related activities" at the bars, police said.

The karaoke bar cluster has been growing this week, and 54 cases are now linked to it.

This number includes an infected passenger on a cruise, which was forced to return to Singapore earlier than scheduled Wednesday after the case was detected.

The first reported infection in the cluster was a Vietnamese hostess on a short-term visitor pass to Singapore who had been to many of the bars, officials said.

Singapore has so far suffered only a mild outbreak, but Health Minister Ong Ye Kung warned there was "potentially a very big cluster" emerging from the bars.

"We knew about cases like these happening in Korea's and Hong Kong's nightlife scene where people come very close together, some with hostesses, which led to big clusters," he told a press conference.

"We have never allowed such activities for more than one year. So for this to happen has been troubling and disappointing."

The government is encouraging people who have visited certain karaoke bars since June 29 to get virus tests, which they have promised will be confidential.

© Agence France-Presse

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