Easing of COVID-19 measures to come when Omicron wave subside: Minister Ong Ye Kung
Minister Ong Ye Kung addressed these concerns on Feb 14.
There are plans to lift the current safe management measures, but these cannot be executed until the Omicron wave subsides.
This remark was made on Monday (Feb 14) by Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung in a written reply to Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who asked what the target criteria is before restrictions can be lifted to allow Singaporeans to dine and socialise normally again.
The current measures, which were put in place on Nov 22 last year, restrict social gathering sizes to groups of up to five people. Households can only allow up to five unique visitors daily as well.
Mr Ong said that restrictions would be lifted once conditions permitted it, especially if it could be ensured that the healthcare system would not be put under further strain.
There are two aspects to look at – the daily infection number, as well as the impact of disease severity on Singapore’s healthcare capacity.
Given that the Omicron variant is highly infectious, Singapore should “expect daily cases to reach 15,000 to 20,000”, said Mr Ong. Currently, Singapore sees around 10,000 cases a day, with a week-on-week infection growth rate of close to two.
However, while the impact of Omicron is less severe as compared to the Delta variant and a high percentage of Singapore’s population have received vaccinations and boosters, there is still a significant difference in severe illness among the vaccinated and boosted, and those who aren’t fully vaccinated.
“Because of these reasons, while the daily infection numbers are high, the vast majority of cases have mild or no symptoms, and very few develop severe illness and require oxygen supplementation or ICU care, or have passed away,” said Mr Ong.
Mr Ong added that there are less ICU beds taken up compared to the Delta peak, while Omicron patients’ stays in hospital also tend to be shorter – around three to five days, compared to 11 day for patients infected with the Delta variant.
“So looking at these indicators, our healthcare system is able to handle the Omicron wave. But beyond beds and equipment, we need to monitor the state of healthcare manpower,” Mr Ong explained.
“Our healthcare workers have been battling the pandemic at the frontlines for more than two years now. We do not take this for granted, and will continue to support our healthcare professionals.”
“We will continue to monitor the key indicators closely to make sure our healthcare system can cope as we ride through the Omicron transmission wave. Once it has peaked and start to subside, we can look forward to easing our safe management measures.”