The latest confirmed case of a deadly novel coronavirus in Singapore involved a person who worked at sea before being admitted to the hospital, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry said the 10th confirmed case arrived in Singapore from Wuhan on 20 January while not showing any symptom during his flight.

The 56-year-old Chinese national later developed symptoms of the virus and was identified as a suspected case at a screening station at the ferry terminal of Marina South Pier on Tuesday.

Medical test results on Wednesday confirmed his infection and the patient is now warded in an isolation room at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

“Prior to hospital admission, the case worked and lived on board a cargo vessel,” the ministry said.

“MOH [Ministry of Health] has initiated epidemiological investigations and contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact [with the patient].”

Separately, Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore confirmed to TradeWinds that the patient worked as a crew member on the ship but did not disclose the vessel’s name.

“The ship is currently isolated at an anchorage. Based on the National Environment Agency’s guidelines, the ship will be required to be disinfected,” the MPA said.

“The shipping community, including the master of this ship, has been earlier advised to take precautionary measures when travelling, as well as to remain vigilant and adopt good personal hygiene at all times. Ship crew who feel unwell should inform the master immediately.”

20 countries affected

Originated from Wuhan, central China, the virus has spread to nearly 20 countries in Asia, Europe and North America.

As of Wednesday, China reported more than 6,000 confirmed cases and 133 deaths in the epidemic. Other countries have reported dozens of cases and no death so far.

Singapore, home to the second busiest container port globally, is one of the world’s first countries to screen individuals at ports and terminals for possible infection.

Also in Asia, Papua New Guinea has reportedly shut all seaports to foreign travellers to prevent the virus from reaching the nation.

Legally required to ensure the health of crews, shipmanagers have been developing contingency plans to deal with potential infections onboard and limit the chance of virus spreading via sea routes.

However, cargo vessels generally do not have professional medical staff onboard, so suspected cases would need to be transferred to hospitals onshore with the knowledge in treating the virus.