Hotel lobbies are empty. Taxi drivers lean against their cabs, waiting in vain for passengers. Over the last month, the sometimes-deadly illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has all but halted the tourist trade in Singapore and made people fearful of being out on the street.
Health officials confirmed tonight that another person had died of SARS and said the ailment was suspected in two other deaths. They also announced four new cases of people contracting the disease. The confirmed death toll is now 10 in Singapore and the number of probable cases is least 151. If the two suspected SARS deaths are confirmed, that would bring the mortality rate in Singapore to 7.9 percent, about double the rate worldwide.
The World Health Organization has identified about 3,000 cases of SARS in 20 countries, and said at least 130 people have died and 1,460 people have recovered.
Elsewhere in Asia, the Hong Kong government reported five additional SARS deaths. Four of the fatalities involved young people who had been in good health, raising concerns that the illness was able to kill healthierpatients who previously were thought to have a good chance of recovery, officials said.
The Singapore government has instituted stringent control measures, including a 10-day quarantine for anyone in contact with a probable SARS patient. Video phones have been installed in quarantined homes to monitor compliance, officials said. Violators must use electronic wrist bracelets. Travelers arriving by sea or air are required to fill out a card indicating whether they have symptoms of the disease or have traveled to affected areas.
"We are in this for the long haul," Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang said at a news conference today. "We are putting in place as many measures as we can. It's still early. . . . We have to see how this situation develops."
Meanwhile, the Super Star Virgo, a Malaysian cruise ship that arrived in Singapore on Friday after being hit by a SARS scare, was scheduled to depart tonight for an undisclosed location, its 13 floors having been disinfected. Health officials acknowledged a crew member now suspected of carrying SARS checked into a Malaysian hospital last week without informing Singapore authorities.
There were many signs of concern about the spread of SARS. Some people have stopped shaking hands and bow in greeting instead. An increasing number of residents were staying home, although they were not wearing surgical masks as in Hong Kong and some other affected locations.
"We don't want fear to overtake us and then put on measures without a good basis," said Balaji Sadasivan, a senior health official. "We have no strong basis to require that the general public wear masks."
Officials said it was too early to say the outbreak was under control, although schools in Singapore,closed since last month, were to reopen this week. Officials said they had traced a cluster of 19 cases to one elderly man whose infection was traced to a 26-year-old woman, hospitalized at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore's designated center for SARS treatment. The two unconfirmed SARS deaths were linked to that cluster, as were three of the new cases reported today, officials said.
Health officials here said that all 151 cases so far appear to have occurred through close personal contact with an infected person, rather than airborne or environmental exposure.
At a church not far from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, 200 worshipers today mourned the loss of three in their congregation, including the pastor and parents of the unnamed 26-year-old woman. The pastor, Simon Loh, 39, became ill while ministering to the young woman, who Singaporean authorities said infected more than 140 people, almost all of the cases reported here.
As sunlight flooded the Faith Assembly of God Church this morning, Loh's wife urged the group to continue on. "We want to renew our church," said Lorena Tsai Li Chiung. "We will move forward in this race."
The parishioners prayed for the young woman -- a former stewardess -- who infected and then lost her parents, her pastor and very nearly her grandmother. Protected by a glass partition and a mask, she watched her father die from outside his room. Though she has recovered from the illness, hospital officials were keeping her isolated to protect her privacy.
Members of the congregation said they phoned and sent text messages to the woman on her cell phone. "We don't have a grudge against her," said Iris Mao, 50. "She needs a lot of encouragement. Pastor Loh died in service, praying for her. We believe he's gone to a better place."