Singapore Shifts Covid Focus to Hospitalizations as Cases Set Daily Record
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore is shifting the focus of its daily reports to turn attention to its medical capacity alongside the country’s plans to live with the virus, amid an increase of its daily count of Covid cases in the local community to the highest it’s ever been.
The Ministry of Health will now lead its report with data on serious cases as well as provide more information on large emerging clusters, it said Wednesday in a statement accompanying its daily update. It will no longer state the number of linked and unlinked cases “as this is no longer as relevant as before, given our current strategy of living with Covid-19.”
At 81%, Singapore has the best vaccination rate in the world among countries of more than 1 million people, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Yet daily cases -- the vast majority of which are mild or asymptomatic -- are on the rise.
Still, there are signs that Singapore’s mass vaccination is holding down serious cases. While the overall number of daily local cases has doubled in the past week to 347, the number of serious cases requiring supplemental oxygen or intensive care is about the same as last week.
“We are now in a very different stage of our battle against Covid-19,” the health ministry said. The revamped reports will “reflect the salient issues” such as whether hospital capacity is getting overwhelmed, it said.
Singapore’s shifting approach to deal with the virus has encountered headwinds, not least from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching, underscoring the tensions between those who are worried that the surge in cases would get out of hand, and others who are pushing for a quicker reopening.
Ho, who’s the outgoing chief executive officer of state-owned investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte, said in a Facebook post Thursday there should still be a daily case breakdown between linked and unlinked cases. “This gives us a sense of the pipeline of potential new cases ahead, and whether our contact tracing is keeping up,” Ho wrote, debating her case with those who responded to her post. “We need to keep these signals alive until about end of the year.”
Since authorities loosened virus curbs last month, local infections have risen sharply. In response, the government this week said it is stepping up mandatory testing and banning social gatherings at workplaces, though it isn’t rolling back on previous easing. It said Thursday it will relax movement restrictions for migrant workers living in dormitories.
As for hospital capacity, while the government’s daily report doesn’t list Singapore’s system-wide capacity, previous statements suggest the city-state isn’t close to its limits. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in July said as many as 1,000 ICU beds could be made available to Covid-19 patients if needed. Just six are in ICU now. At its peak, in April of 2020, there were as many as 32 people in ICU.
Singapore is also looking to expand its health care capacity beyond critical care. The government has space for more than 5,500 Covid-positive people with mild or no visible symptoms in community care facilities, which is about 2,000 more beds than the total number of people in Singapore who got Covid over the last month. Additionally, the government is piloting a program that would allow some mildly ill patients to recover at home.
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