A third-party seller whose baby-care business raked in $20 million in sales last year reveals his secret to selling on Amazon, Walmart, and Target

KeaBabies founders Ivan Ong and Jane Neo pose with their two sons.

  • Third-party sales are becoming an increasingly important facet of the e-commerce business.
  • Ivan Ong, owner of KeaBabies, earned $20 million in sales in 2020.
  • He shared his experiences selling on platforms, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Kroger.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There’s millions of dollars to be made as a third-party seller on online marketplaces run by Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

Just ask Ivan Ong, whose international KeaBabies business offers maternity and baby-care products and generated around $20 million in sales last year. KeaBabies’ products are also featured on third-party marketplaces like Kroger and Macy’s.

The brand, founded by Ong and his wife Jane Neo in Singapore in 2016, additionally utilizes Shopify, wholesaling website Faire, along with plenty of advertisements on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, to drive sales from its own website. Ong credited the company’s multi-pronged customer acquisition strategy to wanting to be present wherever customers are.

“E-commerce really exploded,” Ong said. “Our business doubled last year because COVID accelerated everything. We’re expanding very aggressively. So this year we are aiming for $30 to $35 million in terms of our annual sales.”

Amazon, where KeaBabies first began selling products in October 2017. is far and away the company’s biggest revenue driving platform. With a full suite of services through Fulfillment by Amazon, offering warehousing and delivery, the e-commerce giant simply has the lowest barriers to entry, Ong said.

In 2020, Amazon saw $386 billion – or 54% of its total net sales – come from third-party sellers. And larger merchants have sold their brands for an average of $5 million in 2021, as equity firms begin consolidating corners of the market. Research firm Finbold also found that the online-retail giant is adding 3,700 new sellers daily in 2021.

Every marketplace has its pros and cons

While Amazon represents KeaBabies most important marketplace, KeaBabies has also sold items on Walmart Marketplace for about two years.

Ong said that though total sales on Walmart make up about 5% of the total business the company pulls in on Amazon, the retailer does offer fewer “headaches” because there are currently less competitors on the site, and less instances of saboteurs using “black-hatting” techniques.

Meanwhile, Target is comparatively “very selective about who they partner with” compared to most sites. That exclusivity is a plus, according to Ong, because it allows brands to grow without a ton of competition.

“There’s a different strategy for Target,” he said. “For us to get in, it was about a year of getting our brand in front of the brand acquisition onboarding team, and then presenting our brand and pitching about why we should be on Target. It has been quite a chase.”

Meanwhile, Kroger proved to be an entirely different story, thanks to the brand’s recent push to expand its baby category that was seeing growth during the pandemic. The Kroger team ended up contacting KeaBabies directly, to onboard them onto their site.

“It was a pretty easy process for Kroger because they are trying to open up to more brands,” Ong said, adding that the company’s onboarding process was easy-to-navigate.

As third-party sales continues to grow, more brands will have to contend with attracting an array of retail partners and developing those relationships. But despite the challenges, Ong said the strategy more than pays off in the end.

“Our customers are modern moms looking to buy affordable but quality stuff for their babies,” he said. “Being on all these platforms lets you really access customers.”

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James Dyson, the billionaire famous for buying Singapore’s most expensive penthouse in 2019, has moved back to the UK

james dyson singapore penthouse
Dyson paid $54 million for the 3-floor penthouse in July 2019 and then sold it at a loss in October 2020.

Billionaire James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner and a notable Singapore resident for about two years, has moved his main address back to the United Kingdom, Benjamin Stupples reported for Bloomberg, citing filings for Dyson’s companies including his family office.

Dyson made headlines for paying $54 million for a three-story penthouse atop Singapore’s tallest building in July 2019, breaking the city-state’s real-estate record. That same year, he relocated the Dyson headquarters to Singapore from the UK and opened a branch of his family office in the city-state.

Estimates of Dyson’s personal net worth range from around $10 billion to as high as $29 billion, with his wealth stemming from his holdings in Dyson Holdings Pte., the UK’s best-selling vacuum cleaner, according to Bloomberg.

james dyson singapore house
James Dyson’s home

It’s unclear why Dyson, 73, has switched his residency back to his home country. In October 2020, he sold his Singapore penthouse at a $7 million loss, but he still reportedly owns another home in Singapore, a bungalow worth a reported 50 million Singapore dollars, or nearly $38 million.

Dyson’s company, which currently employs about 1,400 people in Singapore, said last week that the company would “shortly” be moving into its new headquarters at an old power station in Singapore, according to the Business Times.

“We do not comment on private family matters and nothing has changed in respect of the company,” a Dyson spokesperson told Bloomberg. “The structure of the group and the business rationale underpinning it are unaltered.”

Representatives from Dyson’s company and charitable foundation did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

Dyson, who designed the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner in 1983, also owns a 300-acre estate in the English countryside. On Wednesday, his luxury yacht, Nahlin, was spotted moored off England’s Cornish Coast, photos on Getty Images show.

james dyson yacht
Dyson’s luxury motor yacht “Nahlin” moored off the Cornish Coast on April 21, 2021 in Falmouth, England.

Dyson may be spending less time in the city-state, but other wealthy foreigners seem to be more interested in Singapore than ever. The number of ultra-wealthy people in Singapore grew in 2020 despite the pandemic, according to Knight Frank’s annual Wealth Report. In the past six months, billionaire Google cofounder Sergey Brin and hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio both announced they’d be setting up family offices in Singapore.

Singapore’s low taxes have long attracted foreign investors, and the city-state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has “cemented the country’s traditional safe haven status” for the ultra-rich, Wendy Tang, Knight Frank’s Group Managing Director in Singapore, said in a recent report.

“When coupled with strong and enduring economic fundamentals, stable governance, and an attractively competitive tax regime, Singapore offers a break in the clouds that pushed some of the world’s mega-rich to have a presence here in recent years,” Tang said.

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Look inside a Singapore supermarket billionaire’s $50 million mansion, which combines a historic bungalow with an ultra-modern house and has a 100-foot swimming pool

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee
The home is a “good class bungalow,” Singapore’s most rare and coveted type of real estate.

  • Singapore billionaire Lim Hock Leng lives in a $50 million historic bungalow combined with a modern mansion.
  • Lim, who co-owns Singapore’s 3rd-largest supermarket chain with his two brothers, has amassed a fortune of $1.2 billion with his brothers.
  • The mansion features a swimming pool that starts indoors and extends outside.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
On a secluded, leafy street in Singapore, supermarket billionaire Lim Hock Leng lives in a $50 million bungalow.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Lim is the co-owner and managing director of Singapore’s third-largest supermarket chain, Sheng Siong, which operates more than 60 stores in the city-state.

Lim’s older brother, Lim Hock Chee, is Sheng Siong’s CEO, while the eldest brother, Lim Hock Eng, is executive chairman. Together, the three brothers own a majority stake in the company, putting their combined net worth at $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.

Lim’s home is a “good class bungalow,” Singapore’s most rare and coveted type of real estate.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

The city-state has a limited number of good class bungalows, making them a status symbol reserved for the ultra-wealthy.

The design of Lim’s home combines a historic Singapore bungalow with an ultra-modern home.

“From the front, it looks very unassuming,” one local real-estate agent, who has visited the home and wished to remain anonymous, told Insider. “But if you look from the back it’s a monstrous house that towers over the whole neighborhood.”

The back of the home shows off the modern addition that was designed as “as a series of stepped terraces with green roofs,” according to the architecture firm.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Singapore-based architecture firm Ta.le Architects oversaw the restoration of the colonial bungalow and designed the new bungalow.

Lim paid 35 million Singapore dollars – or about $26.2 million – for the land and the historic colonial bungalow in 2015, a spokesperson for his company confirmed to Insider.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

The executive then spent roughly SG$30 million ($22.4 million) to restore the bungalow and build the attached modern bungalow, which was completed in 2018, the spokesperson said.

That brings Lim’s total investment in the property to nearly $50 million.

The architecture firm, Ta.le Architects, dubbed the finished property “Hidden House.”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The home has three courtyards, one of which features a grassy lawn and sits between the historic bungalow and the modern bungalow.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Another courtyard separates the living room and the dining room of the new bungalow and brings light and air into the center of the house.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The third courtyard on the lowest level of the home is where you’ll find the 98-foot swimming pool, which extends from indoors to outside of the house.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Above the pool is a staircase designed to “glow in the night,” according to the architects.

Indeed, the entire rear facade of the home does appear to glow at nighttime.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The bungalow sprawls across 33,700 square feet.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Rather than going for pure opulence, the architects said they designed the home to create a “minimalistic luxurious experience.”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Last month, Lim gave a tour of his home to the South China Morning Post and told the publication that he shares his home with different generations of his family.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: South China Morning Post

The architects therefore designed large bedrooms – almost like independent apartments – to accommodate Lim’s four children and his parents.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The bungalow’s formal dining area can accommodate at least 15 people.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Many of the home’s common areas appear to open up to the grassy terraces.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Photos of the home show lavish marble bathrooms. There’s also a massive walk-in closet.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The spacious office seems appropriate for the managing director of a major supermarket group.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The home’s amenities include a fitness center, a sauna and squash court, a pool table, and a home theater with 14 seats.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

When he set out to build the house, Lim said he told the architects, “‘You are building this house for my neighbors, not me.'”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

“When you build a house, that house has to become scenery for your neighbors,” Lim told the Post during the tour.

Lim told the Post that he considers spending so much money on a house to be a bit “extravagant.”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

But for Lim, the cost was justified. His father always wanted the whole family to live together but couldn’t afford a large enough home, Lim said, so he sees the house as realizing his father’s dream.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I got a tour of Citi’s new wealth hub in Singapore for high-net-worth clients, a 30,000-square-foot space with ‘garden pods’ for meetings. Look inside.

singapore citi wealth hub
The space features “garden pods” for meetings.

  • I toured Citi’s new wealth hub in Singapore for its high-net-worth clients.
  • It was designed to cater to clients with assets starting at 250,000 Singapore dollars, or about $186,000.
  • It felt more like an upscale lounge than a bank. It was full of trees, a free café, and “garden pods” for meetings.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Global investment bank Citi has opened a 30,000-square-foot wealth hub on Singapore’s Orchard Road, the city-state’s glitzy luxury shopping thoroughfare.

singapore citi wealth hub

The Citi Wealth Hub on Orchard Road, Citi’s largest wealth hub globally, was created to cater to the bank’s Citigold and Citigold Private Clients, who must have at least 250,000 Singapore dollars ($186,000) and SG$1.5 million ($1.1 million) in investable assets respectively. 

The idea is to bring together Citi’s Singapore-based relationship managers and wealth specialists in a central location where they can advise these clients on building their wealth, according to a Citi spokesperson. 

While Citi doesn’t disclose its numbers of Citigold and Citigold Private Clients, there’s no shortage of wealthy potential clients in Singapore.


The city-state is home to 3,732 ultra-high-net-worth individuals, or individuals worth at least $30 million, according to Knight Frank’s 2021 Wealth Report.

In the 2021 Global Financial Centres Index that ranks global financial centers, Singapore ranked fifth overall after New York, London, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

“Citi has an enormous opportunity to serve the growing affluent segment in Singapore,” Brendan Carney, CEO of Citibank Singapore Limited and Global Consumer Banking, said in a statement announcing the opening of the wealth hub in December. 

I recently got a tour of the Citi Wealth Hub, which spans 30,000 square feet across four floors. The seventh floor is dedicated to the Citigold Centre for Citigold clients, who must have at least SG$250,000 ($186,000) in assets.

singapore citi wealth hub

Clients are greeted by a sleek reception area with fresh flowers. Like everywhere else in Singapore right now, everyone is required to check in with contact tracing app Trace Together.

The Citigold Centre is a large glass-walled atrium with meeting pods, a cafe, and an abundance of greenery.

Singapore citi wealth hub

Ministry of Design, the interior design firm responsible for the space’s biophilic design, refers to the atrium as a “Banking Conservatory.”

It certainly didn’t feel like any bank I’d been in before.

singapore citi wealth hub

Instead of tellers or conventional meeting rooms, there are “garden pods” where clients can meet with their wealth managers.

Each pod is set up with a round table, four chairs, and a screen where a relationship manager can advise the client using a larger screen instead of a laptop or tablet.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

A free cafe serves Lavazza coffee, TWG tea, and chocolate bon bons from local pastry chef Janice Wong.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

And there are other nooks throughout where clients can meet with their relationship manager or just lounge with a coffee.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

The most exclusive part of the wealth club is the Citigold Private Client Centre on the eighth floor.

singapore citi wealth hub

To become a Citigold Private Client, you must have investable assets of at least SG$1.5 million, or about $1.1 million. 

These clients gain access not only to the wealth hub in Singapore, but to a dedicated relationship manager who consults with a team of specialists, including portfolio counselors and mortgage specialists, to best advise the clients.

The Citigold Private Client Centre is a smaller, intimate space, filled with small meeting nooks – and still plenty of greenery.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

From this area, Citigold Private Client members can order something from the cafe with one of the staff and have it delivered to them.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

The wealth hub has 30 client advisory rooms that are named after national trees and flowers of countries where Citi has a presence.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

The Citi employees who work at the wealth hub occupy the sixth floor.

singapore citi wealth hub

Plastic dividers separate individual workspaces in the plant-filled office.

The wealth hub can house more than 300 relationship managers and wealth specialists, but in Singapore, only 75% of a company’s employees are currently allowed to be in the office at one time.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: The Straits Times

My tour of the Citi Wealth Hub made it clear that the luxe space was designed for a world where in-person meetings and events were the norm.

singapore citi wealth hub

During my tour, the Citi spokesperson emphasized that the wealth hub was meant to bring clients together with their relationship managers and wealth specialist for in-person rather than online meetings.

The initial plan was also to hold seminars and talks with business leaders, according to the Citi spokesperson. Right now, the only events are online.

In the pandemic, people have grown more accustomed than ever to virtual meetings, and in-person events have become much more limited.

Still, Singapore is likely closer to a return to in-person normalcy than most other countries, as the city-state has contained the virus and reported only 30 deaths throughout the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A tech founder’s wife just paid $96 million for a house in Singapore’s most exclusive neighborhood, marking the priciest home sale of the year

30 nassim road house singapore ladyvale
A Google Maps street view of the home’s entrance on Nassim Road.

The wife of a Singapore tech founder paid 128.8 million Singapore dollars, about $95.6 million, for a house on exclusive Nassim Road, according to property website EdgeProp.

The home sits on a 32,160-square-foot lot next to the British High Commission on Nassim Road, Singapore’s most prestigious road that’s lined with embassies and multimillion-dollar mansions. Jin Xiao Qun, who’s married to Shi Xu, the founder of Nanofilm Technologies International, bought the property from businesswoman Oei Siu Hoa, who’s also known as Sukmawati Widjaja, per the report.

Jin’s purchase is the priciest single home sale of the year, according to property records. The highest overall residential sale came earlier this month when a buyer paid SG$293 million – about $217.5 million – for all 20 units of an ultra-luxury condo building.

nassim road singapore
Nassim Road is a lush, quiet neighborhood full of mansions and embassies. Jin’s home not pictured.

Sunita Gill, CEO and founder of real-estate firm Singapore Luxury Homes, said she was surprised by the high purchase price of the Nassim Road property, noting that it’s “not ready for move-in.”

“Usually purchases like that are influenced either by a potential feng shui decision or external advice on why she was willing to pay this kind of a price,” Gill told Insider.

Known as Ladyvale Bungalow, the house was built in 1964 and sold by the British High Commission in 2000 for SG$19.3 million, according to Tatler Singapore. Oei, the most recent owner, bought the home for SG$25.5 million in 2003.

Although the home is designated as a “good class bungalow” – the most rare and coveted type of housing in Singapore – it will likely require a full renovation that could cost from SG$500 to SG$1,000 per square foot, Gill said.

“So if you calculate that into size of the property, she is potentially looking at another 20 to 30 million [Singapore dollars] just on rebuild cost,” she said.

Jin could not immediately be reached for comment for this story.

The Nassim Road home sale also breaks Singapore’s price-per-square-foot record, which was set in 2019 when vacuum billionaire James Dyson paid SG$50 million for a home on a 15,101-square-foot lot on nearby Cluny Road.

james dyson singapore house
James Dyson’s bungalow in Singapore.

Bruce Lye, cofounder and managing partner at Singapore Realtors Inc, said he thought the price was fair for the location, even considering the cost of potential renovations.

“A piece of regular land in Nassim is like fine art or wine,” Lye told Insider, adding that the prices of such properties “keep reaching new highs all the time.”

The deal hints that 2021 could be another banner year for Singapore real estate after home prices recently reached a two-year high as Singaporeans and foreign nationals snap up homes during the pandemic.

“Our high-end market is very resilient,” Lye said. “Singapore is much sought after due to our safe haven status for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. With amendments to the Global Investor Program and benefits of setting up family offices in Singapore, we will see many more eye-popping deals being inked in the near future.”

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Facebook and Google are funding two new undersea internet cables running from the West Coast to Singapore and Indonesia

Google Curie undersea cable
The new Facebook and Google cable joins the companies’ other cable projects, like Google’s Curie cable, pictured being laid here.

  • Facebook and Google announced plans to fund two new transpacific internet cables.
  • The cables, called Bifrost and Echo, will link the US West Coast with Indonesia and Singapore.
  • Both Facebook and Google have been forced to abandon cable projects linking the US and Hong Kong.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook and Google are pouring more money into internet cables that could span the Pacific Ocean.

The tech giants announced Monday they’re funding two new cables called Bifrost and Echo. The cables will link America’s west coast with Indonesia and Singapore, with a stop-over in Guam, the US island territory in the western Pacific.

Facebook is investing in both cables, while Google is only funding Echo.

In a press release on Monday, Facebook said the cables would increase transpacific internet capacity by 70%. CNBC reported Echo was slated to be completed by late 2023, and Bifrost by late 2024.

Facebook and Google are partnering with Indonesian companies Telin and XL Axiata, as well as Singaporean company Keppel.

Read more: We identified the 195 most powerful people at Google under CEO Sundar Pichai. Explore our exclusive org chart.

This comes after both Facebook and Google have abandoned plans to lay transpacific cables linking the US and Hong Kong.

Facebook announced on March 10 it was withdrawing from a plan called the Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) project, following political pressure from the US government.

In September 2020, a joint Facebook and Google cable project was abandoned because of the Trump administration’s national security concerns around laying cables to China. In the same month, Facebook deserted a project to link San Francisco with Hong Kong.

Facebook is currently also working on a project laying an enormous undersea cable around the African continent, while Google is working on cables linking the US with Europe, as well as Europe with the west coast of Africa.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Singapore built the world’s first bubble facility so people can travel for business without having to quarantine – and it’s in an expo center. We got a sneak peak of the rooms, facilities, and food.

singapore bubble business travel facility
Guest rooms are built around two indoor courtyards with live plants, work spaces, and gym pods.

  • Singapore just opened the world’s first bubble facility for business travelers.
  • Travelers can bypass a 14-day quarantine by staying in the bubble facility, but they can’t leave it.
  • The facility has 150 guest rooms, gym pods, and 40 meeting rooms with air-tight glass panels and separate ventilation systems.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As the world rolls out COVID-19 vaccines and international travel remains largely grounded, Singapore has opened up what it says is the world’s first bubble facility for non-quarantining business travelers.

The facility, called Connect@Changi, will allow business travelers to bypass the city-state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine – as long as they don’t leave the facility. Inside, guests will stay in hotel-like rooms, have meals delivered to a cubbyhole outside their door, and conduct in-person business meetings with Singaporeans and professionals from around the world in rooms with air-tight glass panels and separate ventilation systems.

“Without such a facility, travel options are essentially binary – either stay at home due to travel restrictions, or fly overseas and endure long periods in quarantine,” Robin Hu, head of international policy at Temasek and chairman of SingEx-Sphere Holdings, two of the project’s developers, said in a press release. The facility offers business travelers the option of resuming in-person meetings in a “safe and contained manner” while also boosting Singapore’s economic recovery, he said. 

The 780,000-square-foot facility opened this week with 150 guest rooms and 40 meeting rooms, but it plans to be able to host 1,300 travelers by the end of the year. Room rates start at 384 Singapore dollars, or about $287, which is based on a minimum 24-hour stay and includes meals and COVID-19 tests.

Earlier this week, I got a sneak peek of Connect@Changi just before the first guests arrived. Here’s what travelers can expect from the world’s first business travel bubble facility. 

The Connect@Changi facility was built inside the Singapore Expo Convention & Exhibition Centre, a roughly one-million-square-foot complex near Changi Airport that’s typically used for live concerts, conferences, and exhibitions.

singapore expo convention centre
Singapore Expo Convention Hall and Exhibition Centre in April 2020.

In the pandemic, none of those events has been happening, leaving the expo center sitting empty. Last spring, it was temporarily converted into a facility for patients recovering from COVID-19.

In December, the Singapore government-owned investment company, Temasek, announced it was teaming up with a group of Singapore companies including Changi Airport Group and Sheares Healthcare Group to open what they say is the world’s first bubble facility for non-quarantining business travelers.

The first phase of construction was finished in about 14 weeks.

To stay at the facility, travelers must apply on the Connect@Changi website and await approval. Connect@Changi will coordinate with the Singapore government to approve the special visa for business travelers.


Right now, travelers coming from any country can apply, with the exception of those coming from the UK and South Africa. But approval is not guaranteed; Singapore will consider factors including the COVID-19 status of the traveler’s country and the departure country of other travelers staying at the facility at the same time, a publicist said.

They may be able to skip a two-week quarantine, but those who stay at Connect@Changi should prepare their nostrils for multiple COVID-19 PCR tests.

Before leaving for Singapore, guests must take a COVID-19 PCR test in their country of departure within 72 hours of their flight. Once they arrive at the airport in Singapore, they’ll be tested again. And while staying at the Connect@Changi facility, guests will be required to undergo additional PCR testing at the on-site testing center on days three, seven, and 14 of their stay.

That means that a five-day stay would require a total of three COVID-19 PCR tests.

After travelers land in Singapore and get their first PCR tests at Changi Airport, a shuttle will transport them to the airside entrance of Connect@Changi, which is reserved for international arrivals to the facility and staff.

singapore business travel bubble facility

The center is a five-minute drive from the airport. 

Once they’ve checked in at reception, guests will be shown directly to their rooms, where they must remain until they get the results of their arrival COVID-19 PCR test.

singapore business travel bubble facility

The facility currently has 150 guest rooms open, but 660 rooms are expected to be open when the first phase is completed in May.

singapore business travel bubble facility

When Connect@Changi is fully completed later this year, it will have the capacity to accommodate roughly 1,300 business travelers at a time, according to press materials.  

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, project developers don’t know how long the facility will be open, a publicist told me. But once it’s no longer needed, it will be demolished and the expo center will return to its former operations.

When a traveler first arrives, their room number will be illuminated red to indicate the traveler is awaiting the results of their PCR test.

singapore bubble business travel facility

The guest will receive their test results via text message in about six to 12 hours, after which the traveler is allowed to leave their room, a publicist told me.

If the test comes back positive, the traveler will immediately be transported to a medical facility in Singapore and the Connect@Changi will follow all of the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing and testing protocols.

During their stay at Connect@Changi, guests will use a free mobile app to do everything from booking meeting rooms to choosing their meals and reserving a workout in a gym pod.

singapore business travel bubble facility

The facility has three types of rooms: an Executive Twin room with two twin-size beds; an Executive King room with one king-size bed; and a Premier King, with a king-size bed and the added perk of a view of the indoor courtyard.

singapore bubble business travel facility
An Executive King room.

While the king-size rooms are typically meant for one person, a married couple would be allowed to share a room if they were both traveling to Singapore for business purposes.

None of the rooms, regardless of its size, has a window to the true outdoors; all windows look into the expo center.

The guest rooms are smaller than a typical hotel room but seemed to be outfitted with everything necessary for a short stay.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Before the pandemic, most business travelers to Singapore stayed for under five days, so Connect@Changi expects most visitors to the facility to stay for a similarly short duration.

In the Premier King room, the bed takes up most of the space.

singapore bubble business travel facility

But there’s also a desk and a 43-inch, wall-mounted TV.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Phones in each room allow travelers to make free local calls.

singapore bubble business travel facility

The bathrooms have no bathtubs. Toiletries are provided in the showers.

singapore bubble business travel facility

There’s also a mini-fridge, kettle, and microwave.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Each room also has its own thermostat so travelers can adjust the temperature to their comfort — no small benefit in Singapore, where the weather is hot and humid but the air-conditioning can be aggressive.

On the bedside table is a pop of greenery in the form of a live plant with ionizing technology that claims to clean airborne pollutants and reduce anxiety and lethargy.

singapore bubble business travel facility

The Premier King rooms overlook the courtyards, where live plants are mixed with glowing optical fiber lights designed to resemble fields of lalang, a type of grass native to the region.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Despite the careful details, however, there’s no disguising that this is still in the middle of an expo center.

The nightly rate at Connect@Changi includes three meals per day delivered to the guest’s room. For a contactless delivery, the food is left in a cubbyhole right outside the door.

singapore bubble facility business travel
That’s the food cubbyhole on the right side.

Guests can also order food from any of the hundreds of restaurants at Changi Airport through the mobile app, or through local delivery apps like Foodpanda or Grab.

Travelers can choose from a menu of Asian and international food, as well as vegetarian options. Below is one of the typical lunch options: a “hawker style” ocean king prawn with kang kong vegetables.

singapore bubble facility business travel food meal

One of the project’s partners, SingEx, which runs the expo center, will provide the meals.

In the facility’s common areas, travelers are allowed to mingle with other guests while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

singapore bubble facility business travel

An executive from Germany, for example, could meet with their colleague from Switzerland and work together at the table above.

The facility’s two courtyards were designed to resemble tropical outdoor spaces in line with Singapore’s “City in a Garden” nickname.

singapore bubble facility business travel

The floor is carpeted with artificial grass, but the greenery surrounding the courtyard is real.

Two dome-shaped pavilions serve as additional work spaces.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Free WiFi is available throughout all common areas, meeting rooms, and guest rooms.

A posted sign indicates that 30 people can be in each courtyard at a time.

singapore bubble business travel facility

In the courtyard and throughout the rest of the facility, other signs remind travelers to maintain a distance of one meter from other people.

Each courtyard has a gym pod, which travelers can reserve for a private workout.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Up to two people can work out in the gym pod at a time.

Guests reserve the pod via the Connect@Changi app and scan a QR code to unlock the door.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Inside, there’s a treadmill, a cycling machine, a bench press machine, and free weights.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Each courtyard also has vending machines and a Starbucks coffee station.

singapore bubble business travel facility

The key component of the facility is, of course, the business center.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Connect@Changi expects business travelers to use the facility for things like meeting a job candidate in person before hiring them or signing legal documents.

The facility opened with 40 meeting rooms of varying sizes, but Connect@Changi expects to have a total of 170 meeting rooms open by May. Notably, none of the meeting rooms has a window.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Guests can book meeting rooms through the mobile app for an additional cost of between roughly $15 and $150 per hour, depending on the size of the room. 

The smallest size room, which accommodates up to four guests, is $15 per hour to book.

singapore bubble business travel facility

This room is available only to guests staying in the facility, not outside visitors.

In the meeting rooms that are designed to host outside visitors who are meeting with Connect@Changi guests, the two groups will be separated by an air-tight glass panel, and each side of the room has its own separate ventilation system.

singapore bubble business travel facility

A microphone system allows the two groups to hear each other through the glass.

singapore bubble business travel facility

The largest meeting room available is a board room with a videoconferencing setup that can host up to 11 people on each side.

singapore bubble business travel facility

If they want to conduct a lunch meeting, travelers can arrange for meals to be sent to the meeting room.

When not eating or drinking, however, both guests and visitors are required to keep their masks on at all times.

The board room also includes a UV-sanitizing document transfer box so that two groups can pass documents back and forth.

singapore bubble business travel facility

The bubble facility has its own on-site COVID-19 testing center, where all travelers are tested on the third, seventh, and 14th days of their stay.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Staff is regularly tested as well.

There’s a small socially distanced waiting area …

singapore bubble business travel facility

… and two testing stations.

singapore bubble business travel facility

Once travelers arrive, the facility’s cleaning staff will wear full PPE.

singapore bubble business travel facility

For safety reasons, there will be no in-room housekeeping throughout a guest’s stay, although guests can request extra towels. 

Visitors based in Singapore are not required to undergo COVID-19 testing before coming to meet with a guest at the facility, as they will have separate entrances, exits, and ventilation systems.

singapore bubble business travel facility
The entrance for visitors from Singapore.

The travelers staying in the facility are responsible for booking meeting rooms and inviting any colleagues from the Singapore side.

Connect@Changi is purposely not being called a hotel – partially because that’s not what it is – but also to manage expectations, a publicist told me. When a traveler hears “hotel,” they expect a cocktail bar and a pool, she said.

singapore bubble business travel facility

That’s certainly not what travelers will find at Connect@Changi. But they will find what appears to be an efficient, COVID-free bubble that could be a model for other countries hoping to open up safe business travel. The facilities are not luxurious, but they are comfortable enough and provide the necessary amenities for a short work trip.

“Ideally, you would like to have people free to move around, do what they want to do and spend where they want to,” Temasek’s senior managing director, Alan Thompson, said at a media briefing in December. But, he added, Connect@Changi is a “good alternative option” as the world works to eradicate the virus.

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This is how we got married with 100 guests in Singapore while painstaking COVID-19 restrictions are in place

Gina and Shoshi Wedding
Gina Loh, 33, and Shoshi Kudo, 34, walk down the aisle.

  • Gina Loh and Shoshi Kudo got married in Singapore where COVID restrictions permit up to 100 guests.
  • But strict rules meant no live music, no noisy toasts, and ‘zoning’ to keep guests apart.
  • Guests toasted the couple in silence as rules forbade raucous cheers traditionally given.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Shoshi Kudo and Gina Loh had visions of a big white wedding with 180 guests, including Kudo’s family flying in from Japan, after he proposed to her in January 2020 during a mountain hiking holiday.

But three months later, Singapore went into lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic and all weddings were prohibited.

When the coupled married on January 9 this year, only 100 guests could attend, provided they all took painstaking steps to maintain social distancing – including being divided into two “zones” of 50 people. Their pandemic wedding had to be radically different to what they had envisaged a year earlier. 

Some friends decided to postpone theirs until the pandemic was over but Kudo and Loh, who met on a blind date in 2015, didn’t want to put their lives on hold.

Kudo and Loh booked a church in June 2020, when Singapore lifted restricted first imposed in April. But plans for their reception hung in the balance.

On October 3, the government announced that weddings could have up to 100 guests. The couple decided to book the Grand Ballroom at the Singapore Island Country Club for a last-minute reception.

While the couple could have some familiar elements to the day, much of their original plan had to be scrapped or curbed.

READ MORE: I’m a doctor in Singapore. Our COVID-19 cases have been low since last fall – here’s what we’re doing right.

The 100 guests could not mingle and a ban on wind instruments and singing meant they could not have the choir they wanted.

The couple originally wanted a cocktail party, a DJ to play music all night long and a photo booth where they could capture candid shots of friends. But all of this was abandoned, along with a trip to Bangkok for a bespoke suit for the groom. 

When the event started, the mask-wearing guests had to remain one meter apart. Each guest had to register using Singapore’s contact tracing app, Trace Together, and stop for a temperature check before going directly to their socially-distanced, pre-selected pew.

“We had to separate our guests into two zones of 50, and these people weren’t allowed to mix, so we split them into family and friends,” Kudo told Insider.

“Depending on the length of the pew, three or four people could sit together, but they had to be from the same household.”

As they couldn’t have a choir, Loh walked down the aisle to ‘It’s Your Day’ by the Korean pianist Yiruma, which a friend played via Spotify.

The couple stood one meter away from the priest and said their vows. Before each guest could receive communion, ushers sprayed their hands with sanitizer. The priest gave the guests crackers but no wine. 

Singapore couple
The couple during the service.

“At church it was quite muted. We weren’t allowed to have any singing,” said Kudo. “We also had to leave within 60 minutes, which was maybe to help prevent any socializing.”

The only other difference to the ceremony was spotted by the groom. “The priest didn’t say ‘and now you may kiss the bride’,” Kudo said. “I was waiting for that moment.”

When the couple booked the church, they’d planned to serve a finger buffet so that guests could relax while they took photographs.

But the refreshments where they could mingle had to be cancelled, as well as the keepsake group photographs.  

While wearing masks was not part of the couple’s original plan, Loh said they had one advantage during a long day. “Your jaw gets locked up through smiling so much so we could take a rest,” she said, laughing. 

The guests took separate transport to the reception. As soon as they stepped out of their car, they had to check in at the club’s reception via Trace Together, take a temperature check and find their seat at a pre-selected table.

With a pre-COVID wedding, it would have been traditional for the best man and siblings to give speeches on the stage but, as everyone had to keep their distance, the bride and groom gave the only two speeches of the day.

This meant the couple had to be more hands-on. As Loh is a video editor, she organized a slide show of their story so far.

As the only group photographs during the reception were taken at the tables, the couple had to plan even more carefully who would be sat together.

“As guests couldn’t change tables or zones, we wanted to make sure that, for example, our parents were sat together,” Kudo added. 

Both Loh and Kudo have Chinese heritage. A Chinese wedding reception is usually a lively affair, with sharing dishes placed in the center of the table and a rousing toast given by each one to the bride and groom.

The sharing dishes were switched for individual plated servings and the toasts were silent.

“Each table would usually give the bride and groom a toast wishing them health, happiness and children,” said Kudo. “It usually turns into a light-hearted competition with each table trying to give the loudest cheer, but unfortunately they couldn’t do that.” 

“While the day wasn’t what we originally planned, it was still really special,” Kudo added.

The couple are now looking forward to starting to plan their honeymoon in Italy, once the pandemic is over.

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I went through a luxury hotel quarantine in Singapore to beat the coronavirus – and it works. But Americans just wouldn’t find it acceptable.

Right: A selfie from quarantine. (I’m very bad at taking selfies). Left: The view we had for 14 days.

  • I have been locked in a luxury hotel room 24 hours a day for two straight weeks, as part of Singapore’s strict anti-coronavirus regime.
  • Singapore’s approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 is one of the most successful in the world.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, the city-state of more than 5 million people has had around 59,000 cases and just 29 deaths.
  • It’s a system that has saved countless lives, but it would never fly in the US. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Greetings from Singapore. 

My husband and I are currently confined to a hotel room, unable to go out into the city until we’ve quarantined for a full two weeks and received negative COVID tests. We’re not allowed to leave our one-bedroom suite under threat of punishment of heavy fines or deportation.

It’s a strange type of purgatory. Singapore’s stringent COVID prevention rules and policies would likely outrage many Americans who believe that personal liberty is at the core of what it means to live in the US.  The notion of liberty has been at the center of so many American protests about lockdowns over the last few months.

But the reality is: Singapore’s lockdown is working, and the American approach to the coronavirus is not. 

Confined to a hotel room 24 hours a day

In February, Singapore instituted its Stay-Home Notice program. It requires everyone coming into the country – visa holders or permanent residents – to serve out a compulsory 14-day closely monitored quarantine. 

We lucked out and were given a junior suite to quarantine in.

After you arrive in-country and make your way through customs, you shuffle off to a bus and are driven to one of the dozen or so hotels taking in quarantining travelers.  You do not get a choice of hotels.

The quarantine rules here are strict: You are confined to your hotel room 24 hours a day. All food is provided by the hotel and delivered outside your hotel room door to ensure contact-free delivery. Anything you order to your room – like takeout or groceries – is sent to you contact-free, too. Upon arrival, you’re asked to record and monitor your temperature (with a hotel-provided thermometer) three times a day.

Your key card is programmed to only work one time, so if you venture out of your room, you’ll be locked out and at the mercy of the authorities. 

On the eleventh day of the quarantine, we’ll be given PCR coronavirus tests, which will determine whether or not we’ll be able to leave three days later.

We were required to take our temperatures several times a day and record it both on a piece of paper and via an app called Homer.

For the last week and a half, our lives have been limited to the confines of a 200-square-foot hotel room. It’s not prison. But it is prison-like. It’s certainly not freedom. We cannot leave.

And it works

The SHN program has been paying off. In the past week, Singapore health authorities have discovered 19 cases of coronavirus among incoming SHN participants. Eighteen of those cases were asymptomatic and, had they gone untested, could have infected countless in the community. 

Singapore has a population of 5.69 million people crammed into an area only slightly larger than New York City. But it has had just under 59,000 cases – and only 29 deaths – since the pandemic began. Compare that to Los Angeles, a city with 4 million people, which has had 611,000 cases and 8,800 deaths.

It would seem ridiculous to try to implement a plan like Singapore’s in a country that’s nearly 14,000 times larger in landmass and has 326.4 million more people. But looking at their success in stanching the flow of COVID cases across its border does offer a few hypotheses on why the US’s plans – or lack of plans – haven’t worked. 

For one, Singapore was able to effectively shut down and closely monitor its borders during the pandemic. There are only two ways in and out of the country. You can travel by air into its one airport, or you can travel overland via two causeways from Malaysia, and either way, your movements across borders are closely monitored. The country’s ability to tightly monitor and track people has helped vastly reduce its COVID case numbers. 

quarantine food
Some of the meals we were served while in quarantine.

American exceptionalism has poisoned its ability to react to a crisis

Singapore is one nation operating under consistent policies, but the US is not. Instead, the localization of response and the lack of unifying message from the federal government has meant that every state is essentially acting as its own country – even though there are no border controls between states in place and states rely heavily on federal funding and federal agencies for information. With no consistent policy, states have been left to fight amongst themselves for resources

But beyond that, the American attitude of exceptionalism has poisoned the country’s ability to react to a crisis like this. The American belief that personal liberty and freedom trump social responsibility has created a narrative in which personal choice is more important than the public good. These notions have not been just tacitly encoded into the core of what we believe it is to be American. They’ve been called up time and time again in the arguments about whether coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions impede the American way of life. 

The free flow of people across what are essentially arbitrary borders of city and state, along with the resistance to contact tracing and monitoring, has all but guaranteed that more people than necessary will die. 

‘Choice’ has meant a failure to protect public health

For Americans, the idea of choice – the choice to even put yourself in harm’s way for the notional belief in what it means to be “free” – has engendered, at best, a scenario in which cities and towns have failed to enforce COVID safety policies, and at worst, propagated the idea that the creation of any policy at all, even for the public good, is anti-American. 

Right: Upon completion of our 14-day SHN we were issued certificates in recognition of our stay. Right: These QR code signs are outside of nearly every building. They’re connected to the Trace Together app.

For proof of that attitude, you can cite any number of anti-lockdown advocates whose commitment to personal freedoms over public health is almost pathological. 

“The fact I am protesting does not mean I think it is a good idea to have gatherings,” one Washington state anti-lockdown protester told the BBC in April. “I just believe that the government has no authority to prohibit them.”

Openly flouting masking rules – despite overwhelming evidence that masks prevent transmission – has practically become a national pastime.

‘Americans have been actively discouraged by their leaders from making sacrifices’

Donald Trump is the apotheosis of this mentality, leading by the example of hosting myriad White House celebrations while not enforcing masking – even after contracting the virus himself.  

“Americans have been actively discouraged by their leaders from making sacrifices in support of larger efforts – including wars, fossil fuel consumption, global warming, the Great Recession, and the current pandemic,” wrote Brandon Jett and Christopher McKnight Nichols in a December op-ed for the Washington Post. “Confronting the looming public health, economic and climate challenges today requires a wholesale change in how citizens and the state conceive and construct a rhetoric as well as a practice of collective sacrifice.”

This inability for some Americans to curb their individual freedoms in the face of this virus, and against basic common sense, seems to belie a lack of faith in the very concept of personal liberty. If it’s such a foundational American value, then why are we so afraid that it will disappear if we temporarily put the greater good over the rights of the individual?

The concept of liberty has become a type of currency – a way for the government to pretend that they’re giving you more when they’re actually giving you less.  

Trace Together keeps track of every place you’ve visited via QR code and alerts you if you’ve been some place where someone with COVID has been.

‘Emergency measures do not simply work. They work when a populace has been conditioned for years to accept instruction’

Singapore has often been referred to as a “nanny state” because of the government’s intervention in so many aspects of its citizens’ lives.

You famously cannot chew gum, or spit, or “fly a kite that interferes with public traffic.” Connecting to your neighbor’s WiFi without their permission could land you a $10,000 fine. Forgetting to flush the toilet will cost you $150. Punishment for jaywalking can be as high as $1,000 and three months in jail. 

The curbing of personal freedoms seems largely antithetical to the American way of life. And yet, it’s likely what has prevented the coronavirus from taking more lives here.

“Singapore is able to respond quickly and efficiently in times like this because its government has always wielded absolute control over the state, with an iron fist and a whip in it,” wrote Jerrine Tan in an April 2020 editorial for Wired. “In times of crisis, when this form of authoritative instruction saves lives, we might call it good. But in order for it to work in times of crisis, one must be willing to always live under this yoke. This, it seems, is the price many Singaporeans are willing to pay.”

Right: The view from the 55th story of the Marina Bay Sands. Right: An on-the-ground view of the 2,600-room hotel.

“Emergency measures do not simply work. They work when a populace has been conditioned for years to accept instruction,” she continued. 

The Singaporean government, which has been ruled by one party since 1959, actually embraces its “nanny state” label. Its founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once wrote, “If Singapore is a nanny state, then I am proud to have fostered one.”

Restaurants, stores, movie theaters, and schools are all open

The city-state has returned largely to normal. People are required to wear masks in public and limit the size of groups in public spaces. But restaurants, stores, movie theaters, and schools are all open. On December 28, the country entered Phase 3 of its recovery plan, and citizens are now permitted to gather in larger groups. Things like live concerts have resumed (though concerts of spittle-producing wind instruments are apparently still verboten).

The move to Phase 3 was only permitted after the widespread adoption of Singapore’s TraceTogether contact-tracing program. The app uses Bluetooth technology to identify and inform people who are within a six-foot radius of a person who has tested positive for coronavirus. Another app, SafeEntry, uses QR codes to track people entering and exiting businesses, and it’s been made compulsory by the government.

A sampling of the cocktails and meals we had when we finally got out of quarantine.

Some Singaporeans expressed privacy concerns, and adoption of the app took much longer than the government and hoped, but in the end, nearly 70% of residents have registered with the app. Early on, the government announced that lying to COVID tracers about your whereabouts could result in a $10,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Just last week, a 65-year-old woman was sentenced to five months in jail after investigators found that she’d lied to contact tracers about her whereabouts when meeting a friend for lunch, dinner, or tea while her husband played badminton.

Trace Together recently came under fire because the government announced they would be using it to track criminal activity.

The metro has signs up encouraging people not to talk while riding, as both a courtesy and to prevent possible COVID transmission via saliva.

But Singapore sees these privacy curbs as worth it: In the past week, there have been zero cases of COVID in the community

And there’s the rub: Do you want more government oversight if it’ll save people from coronavirus? Or do you want more freedom at the cost of more lives?

I know which choice I’d make. 

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Singapore said its contact tracing app would only be used to fight the coronavirus, but now police are accessing its data for criminal investigations

TraceTogether Singapore
  • Singapore is under renewed scrutiny after updating the privacy policy of its national contact tracing app TraceTogether, and now says that police can access user data if someone is under criminal investigation. 
  • About 80% of Singapore’s population, around 4.2 million people, are using the app via their devices or government issued wearables.
  • “We do not preclude the use of TraceTogether data in circumstances where citizens’ safety and security is or has been affected, and this applies to all other data as well,” Minister Desmond Tan said
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Singapore’s contact tracing app, TraceTogether, is under scrutiny after the country revealed the app’s data could be accessed in criminal investigations by local police.  

An update to TraceTogther’s privacy policy on Monday now allows Singapore Police to access app data, whether on a government-issued wearable or on a user’s device, Engadget reported.

Thus far, around 80% of Singapore’s 5.6 million people have downloaded the tracing app. The Singapore government had previously told citizens that adoption of the app would be required in order to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and loosen up restrictions. 

But as the app’s widespread use is proving helpful for contact tracing, privacy advocates are pointing to central privacy issues related to recent updates. 

Several US states and other countries have developed contact tracing apps with Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification System, which anonymizes user information. In contrast, Singapore’s TraceTogether app opted for the BlueTrace protocol, which Singapore developed itself. 

In Singapore’s system, the user’s contact log is uploaded to a server managed by the government’s health department. The government had previously said that data collected by the app would only be stored for 25 days, and that all data would be encrypted in order to prevent access by third-party services.

But the app’s January 4 update allows that the data “may be used in circumstances where citizen safety and security is or has been affected.” The new privacy policy added that “Authorized Police officers may invoke Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) powers to request users to upload their TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.”

Engadget reported that no previous versions of the privacy policy referenced police having access to data collected by TraceTogether, and prior to Monday, the app’s website stated that “data will only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing.” 

The paragraph was added to TraceTogether’s policy after Singapore MP Christopher de Souza asked Minister of State and Home Affairs Desmond Tan on Monday if police could access data, and what the privacy safeguards might be.

“We do not preclude the use of TraceTogether data in circumstances where citizens’ safety and security is or has been affected, and this applies to all other data as well,” Tan said

Singaporeans had previously expressed mixed opinions about the TraceTogether app and the overall use of tracking to manage coronavirus. A May 2020 study from the country’s independent think tank, Institutes of Policy Study on the use of surveillance to fight COVID-19 found that around 50% of the population was “agreeable to have their cell phone data tracked without their consent.” However, 87% of respondents were “agreeable to imposing strict surveillance on people who need to be quarantined.”

Singapore has reported fewer than 50 coronavirus cases a day since September 14 and has had two COVID-related deaths in the same time period. 

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