Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that Singapore’s strategy to fight the coronavirus (Covid-19) is to slow down the infection rate and maintain it at as low a level for as long as possible.
“A lower infection rate will help us to better conduct epidemiological investigations, contact tracing and quarantining of close contacts, so as to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the community,” he said.
“It also preserves healthcare capacity to care for the more severe cases.”
In his ministerial statement addressing the outbreak in Singapore in Parliament, Mr Gan cautioned that the number of Covid-19 cases will continue to rise in coming weeks as some of the 200,000 overseas Singaporeans return home.
This comes after the number of cases in Singapore doubled from 266 to 558 in the past week, with 80 per cent of new cases imported. The top three sources of importation are the United Kingdom, the United States and Indonesia.
In preparation for the “expected surge” in cases, Singapore has increased the number of teams for contact tracing from three to 20, Mr Gan said.
“We can trace up to 4,000 contacts each day, and will continue to scale up its contact tracing capacity as needed, Mr Gan added.
Mr Gan also shared that Singapore has slowed the spread of Covid-19 through a three-pronged approach:
Approach #1: Reducing importation
Singapore has implemented border controls to stem the inflow of travellers – all short-term visitors, including tourists, have been barred from entering or transiting since March 25.
The Government also advised Singaporeans to defer all travel until the global situation is under control.
Approach #2: Detecting and isolating cases early
It has strengthened border checks to detect and isolate cases before they come into contact with the wider community, and taken steps to detect cases early through surveillance at hospitals, polyclinics and the network of Public Health Preparedness Clinics.
He added that Singapore has also carried out around 39,000 tests for Covid-19 to date.
This translates to 6,800 tests per million people in Singapore, compared with around 6,500 in South Korea, and 1,000 in Taiwan.
These tests are key in detecting as many cases as possible and as early as possible, he said.
Approach #3: Emphasising social responsibility and good personal hygiene habits
Sufficient capacity to meet all healthcare needs
The minster gave the assurance that Singapore will have sufficient capacity to meet all healthcare needs, including managing infectious outbreaks.
He noted that the 330-bed National Centre for Infectious Diseases was purpose-built with spare capacity, and can be further increased to over 500 beds if necessary.
Mr Gan explained that 80 per cent of the Covid-19 cases are mild, requiring limited medical care. Hence, the Government is tapping on private hospitals and setting up community care facilities to isolate these patients who are well and stable so that it can “focus our critical hospital resources on the seriously ill, to minimise the number of fatalities,” he added.
MOH is also exploring collaborations with private hospitals for some non-COVID-19 patients to be cared there instead.
Image source: CNA