No change in Covid-19 safety measures for now as hospital situation remains stable, despite expected wave: Lawrence Wong
- There is no need to adjust the Covid-19 regulations for now despite an expected rise in infection numbers, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said
- The Government assessed that the present status is enough to ride through the expected wave of infections
- The situation at hospitals is also stable
- Another reason is because there is no evidence of increased severity of illness for the latest Omicron sub-variants
- Ten rapid test kits will be distributed to each household in July to encourage self-testing
SINGAPORE — The authorities will not be tightening Covid-19 regulations for now, in spite of an expected wave of infections, because the situation in hospitals is stable, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday (June 27).
Singapore "must expect'' numbers to rise as the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus are more infectious and transmissible than previous ones, there has been no evidence of increased severity, Mr Wong added.
He was speaking to reporters at a residents centre on Yishun Avenue 5, after witnessing the redeployment of mobile vaccination centres to heartlands with Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. Both ministers are co-chairs of the national Covid-19 task force.
Mr Wong, who is also the Finance Minister, said that the overall situation in the hospitals remains stable.
“For now, our assessment is that we will be able to ride through this wave based on our current posture.”
He also said that there is no need to tighten infection controls.
“But we will monitor the situation closely, including the infection trajectory over the coming weeks, the severity, as well as the hospital situation. And if need be, we will have to make adjustments,” he added.
Mr Ong is hoping that the coming Covid-19 wave will not be as severe as past waves involving the Delta and Omicron variants.
The Delta wave in the middle of last year had put pressure on the intensive care units of hospitals, while the Omicron wave at the start of this year had stressed the regular wards.
Even so, he emphasised that hospitals wards are kept busy due to the "business-as-usual" debt now, tending to non-Covid-19 patients with chronic illnesses.
"I don't think (for the next wave), based on other countries' experience, we will reach 26,000 a day, which we experienced last year. I hope (this) will translate into a situation that is better for hospitals," Mr Ong said.
Asked on Monday about what indicators will be looked at before the authorities tighten Covid-19 infection control measures, Mr Wong said that it would not be based on just one indicator “and certainly not based on the headline numbers”.
The Government’s key priority has always been to ensure that the hospital system is not overwhelmed, he added.
“To manage that, we will look at a range of indicators; the infection trajectory, because that can give a sign of the potential cases that will go to hospital, the severity (of infections) and, finally, the hospital situation itself.”
FOCUS ON VACCINATIONS
Mr Wong said that the Government's present focus is to get more elders, who have yet to take their first booster vaccination shot, to do so. About 70,000 residents aged above 60 have yet to take their booster shot, down from 80,000 last week.
Ten antigen rapid test kits will also be distributed to each household next month, to encourage self-testing efforts within the community.
On Monday, both ministers saw mobile vaccination centres redeployed at a residents centre in Yishun, a move which Mr Wong said was to encourage older people to step forward to take their booster jabs.
Such centres are part of the Government's strategy to bring the national vaccination exercise closer to older residents' homes. Towards the end of last year, mobile vaccination teams went from heartlands to nursing homes in light of the higher uptake in vaccinations among the general public at the time.
Mr Wong said that the recent uptick of headline infection numbers was largely driven by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. More than 5,100 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday.
Mr Wong said that the authorities were concerned about seniors who have not received their booster vaccination dose, especially since the country is bracing for a new wave of infections.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said that teams were rolled out to three locations simultaneously on Monday — Chai Chee, Telok Blangah and Yishun — with the numbers to be ramped up to 25 teams in the next two weeks, roving around 50 sites.
The ministry said that the teams will be deployed at each site for about two to three days, with a capacity of administering up to 200 jabs a day.
Volunteers will go door-to-door to inform residents of the initiative ahead of the teams’ deployment, MOH said.
BOOSTERS ENCOURAGED EVEN AFTER INFECTION
Speaking to reporters, Mr Ong addressed a few questions that he had frequently heard from among residents.
Firstly, he said that it was not necessary to switch to a different vaccine brand for booster shots in relation to the first two primary doses.
“All the vaccines that we have approved for boosters are all very good or very effective, so there is no need to purposely change the vaccine (brand).”
For residents who may be worried about taking vaccines that use messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology for various reasons, such as having experienced side effects when taking earlier doses, he recommended the Novavax vaccine, which is available at the vaccination centre in Bishan.
Novavax is produced using a traditional type of vaccine-employing technology, which has been used for decades to combat diseases such as influenza.
Mr Ong also said that residents should take their booster shots even if they have been infected with Covid-19 before.
This is because those who have completed their primary two doses of vaccines react differently to infection.
“Some mount a meaningful response, some may not mount a meaningful response. So it’s better for everyone to take the (booster) jab.”
On why the Government is not strongly encouraging people in their 50s to take their second booster dose or fourth shots, Mr Ong said that data shows that protection against severe illness and hopitalisation for this age group remains “very strong” after nine months of taking their first booster shot.
However, the authorities are making the shots available for individuals who would like to take up these injections due to their own concerns, such as having underlying health conditions or due to them living with elders.
The public may check the latest locations of the mobile vaccination teams here.