Minister for Trade and Industry, and co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) Gan Kim Yong, said at a press conference earlier today (21 January) that Singapore is likely to see a significant wave of Covid-19 soon, with the Omicron variant now accounting for at least 70% of daily infections.
Gan said that the proportion is “likely to be higher and perhaps even closer to 90% or more”, and that the “Omicron variant has clearly dominated over the Delta variant in Singapore.”
He said: “Given that the Omicron variant is more infectious, it is likely that we will soon see a significant wave.”
He added that most of the Omicron cases were “mild” and even more so for those who are fully vaccinated, especially those who have gotten their vaccination booster jabs.
Gan further added: “The percentage of those who needed oxygen supplementation, intensive care or die is far lower than during the Delta wave. This is in line with the experience of other countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom.”
Case numbers expected to rise
The Ministry of Health (MOH) also said in a press release that they are expecting case numbers to rise.
MOH said that “cases could double every two to three days and could reach 10,000 to 15,000, or even more cases per day”.
They added that Singapore should focus on those in the ICU instead of the number of cases because of the lower severity of the Omicron variant.
MOH added: “Nevertheless, Omicron’s higher transmissibility means that we cannot let our guard down, as an uncontrolled rise in overall case numbers could still push hospital and ICU admissions to unmanageable levels.”
“Significant proportion” of workforce may be infected
Gan Kim Yong also said that Singapore has to be ready for a “significant proportion” of the workforce to be possibly infected with the virus.
He explained: “
“If we have, for example, 15,000 cases a day, which is very possible, with each one of them out of action for an average of say about five days, we are looking at some 75,000 workers absent due to COVID-19 – this has been the experience of other countries and we cannot take it lightly.”
Gan added that businesses should have “robust” continuity plans in order to deal with the likely disruptions to their businesses.
Measures to be implemented
MOH said that they will be implementing a series of measures to get Singapore ready and prepared for the Omicron wave, including the suspension of hospital ward visits, among others.
Plans have also been made to enhance healthcare resources and tweak recovery protocols.
Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung, said that NCID studies have shown that although the Omicron variant is more transmissible, those who are infected carry a lower load of the virus and recover faster.
Ong announced that therefore, the isolation period for fully vaccinated persons and those under 12 will be reduced to 7 days instead of 10.
MOH will also be allowing an expansion of Protocol 2, where infected individuals can end their 72-hour self-isolation if they test negative after the 72 hours.
Booster programme extended
MOH will also be extending its booster programme to youths between the ages of 12 and 17, following the recommendation of the expert committee.
MOH previously announced that 18-year-olds and above have to take their booster jabs within 270 days of their primary vaccination series completion in order to maintain their status of being “fully vaccinated”.
The deadline will be set for 14 March, for those between the ages of 12 and 17, to give them sufficient time to receive their booster dose once they are invited to do so 5 months after their last dose.