SINGAPORE — Singapore’s current COVID-19 outbreak occurred much sooner than authorities anticipated. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday (17 September), a day after the city-state reported 910 new infections – the highest number since 1 May last year.
We hoped that this transmission wave would manifest itself later, perhaps at Transition Stage B, but it has manifested itself much earlier, owing to Delta’s greater infectiousness,” he explained during a virtual doorstop interview.
Singapore has been in the first stage – or Preparatory Stage – of a four-part road map to endemic COVID-19 since 10 August.
Transition Stage A, Transition Stage B, and COVID-19 Resilient Nation are the remaining three stages.
While this “major wave of transmission” occurred earlier than expected in this country, it is unavoidable for any country that has chosen to live with the virus, according to Ong, who is also the co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministerial task force.
“This is almost a rite of passage before humans, and the virus reaches a new equilibrium, and everything stabilizes,” he emphasized.
Singapore has a high rate of vaccination
Ong noted, however, that Singapore is experiencing the current COVID-19 wave after approximately 80% of the population has been fully vaccinated against the disease, in contrast to other countries that encountered the wave early in the pandemic, resulting in numerous deaths.
Friday will mark the 26th day of the current wave, which typically lasts four to eight weeks.
Cases have doubled every week in Singapore, with the average daily case count increasing from 146 a fortnight ago to 682 in the last week. Over 98 percent of these cases were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
Only 1.6% and 0.1% of total infections in the previous 28 days, respectively, required oxygen supplementation and are in critical condition in an intensive care unit.
“We are not the first country to have faced this baptism of fire, and we certainly will not be the last,” Ong cautioned.
If the current infection rate continues at its current rate, which he noted is “growing faster than expected,” Singapore could see 2,000 new cases daily next month.
However, we are quite clear that you cannot sustain many rounds of doubling, even if the conversion to oxygen supplementation or ICU care is minimal,” Ong said, noting that the next two weeks will be critical in determining whether Singapore will run out of ICU beds and overburden hospitals in general.
Program for reclaiming defaulted homes
Expanding the home recovery program to include eligible COVID-19 patients aged 12 to 69 – up from 50 previously – will assist in addressing such uncertainties. This will commence on Saturday.
Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH), noted that the number of critically ill patients is not increasing in lockstep with the total number of infections in the country.
This trend in cases is closely monitored, and if it continues to show a similar “disconnect” between community-based and hospitalized cases, Singapore “may be fine, and our healthcare resources would be more than adequate,” he added.
However, Associate Professor Mak noted that while the initial indications are encouraging, the data collected is still in its infancy.
“We do need to monitor the situation closely over the next two weeks to determine whether that trend continues,” he emphasized.