Singapore may do without quarantine, hospitalisation when dealing with COVID-19 in new norm
The three co-chairs of the COVID-19 task force shared the road map they have planned for Singapore.
COVID-19 has been around for 18 months already, but there is hope at the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel.
The co-chairs of the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce, ministers Gan Kim Yong, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung, shared in a Straits Times article on the road map for what living with COVID-19 will look like in Singapore.
Vaccinations are key to managing the pandemic
COVID-19 will likely remain endemic in Singapore, meaning that it will never go away. But it is possible to turn it into something that is a lot less threatening to us. This is the task force’s priority for now.
The ministers highlighted that vaccinations are going to be very important for Singapore to live safely with COVID-19. Currently, the goal is for two thirds of the population to get both doses of the vaccine by National Day.
They mentioned that getting vaccinated significantly reduces your chances of getting infected with the virus, as well as reduces the severity of your symptoms.
An example is Israel, where because of the high vaccination rates, the infections from COVID-19 have been reduced to something like seasonal influenza.
The task force hopes that by achieving similarly high vaccination rates, we will be able to turn COVID-19 into something much more manageable.
Fast and easier testing, effective treatments for COVID-19
The focus of COVID-19 testing will also change.
Although testing for visitors to Singapore and potential COVID-19 cases will remain, the focus will now be on how testing can allow for events, social activities and overseas trips to take place safely.
The task force wants to make COVID-19 testing easy and quick. They have rolled out antigen rapid tests and self-tests to clinics, pharmacies, employers and premises owners.
Faster test kits, like breathalysers, are also going to be rolled out in airports, offices, malls, schools and hospitals, to make screening staff and visitors a lot easier.
Hidden infections in dormitories, hostels or housing estates will also be screened using wastewater testing.
The Ministry of Health has also committed to tracking effective treatments for COVID-19, in the hopes of keeping Singapore’s mortality rate for the virus low.
The new normal
The task force highlighted that with vaccinations, testing, treatment and social responsibility, our response to when someone gets COVID-19 can be very different.
Firstly, infected people can recover at home. Since symptoms will likely be mild with vaccinated individuals, and there are less chances of transmission, there is no need to be quarantined or hospitalised. This also prevents the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
Mass contact tracing and quarantining of individuals who come into contact with a positive case may no longer be necessary. People can easily get tested and stay home to isolate themselves.
Larger events and gatherings can likely resume as well, as safe management rules are eased. Businesses can also be more confident that their operations will not be disrupted.
Travel will also be possible in this new normal, starting with countries where COVID-19 has become endemic and with mutual recognition of vaccine certificates. Vaccinated travellers who test negative both at departure and upon arrival can be exempted from quarantine.
The focus will also shift from daily COVID-19 infection numbers, to monitoring outcomes of those infected, such as the number of people in intensive care or those who are intubated for oxygen.
The task force ministers stressed that social responsibility and cohesion will allow Singapore to reach this new normal soon.
They reminded Singaporeans to continue practising good personal hygiene, avoiding crowds when sick and to shoulder this burden together.