As Singapore plans to reopen economic activities, the government on Friday expressed concerns over a "sharp increase" in the number of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks that might "overwhelm" the city-state's healthcare system. The average daily number of Covid-19 cases has risen from 76 two weeks ago to 288 in the past week, according to media reports.
While we expected an increase in the number of cases every day when we open up, the sharp rate of increase is worrying, Covid-19 multi-ministry task force co-chair Gan Kim Yong told a press conference. Although our vaccination rate has now surpassed that of many countries and is one of the highest in the world, we want to be sure that the number of cases will not suddenly spike, which can lead to more serious cases, and which will, in turn, overwhelm our healthcare system, he said.
Countries like Israel and the UK have seen a sharp spike in cases after easing their COVID-19 measures, despite high vaccination coverage, noted Gan, who is also the trade minister. Therefore we want to be cautious and give ourselves more time to be certain that a high number of daily cases will not result in a high number of serious cases or deaths. The next two to four weeks is, therefore, crucial, as we will find out if patients eventually develop serious illnesses and complications subsequently, he said.
This is the first time Singapore is experiencing an exponentially rising wave of infection in the community, the health ministry said in a press release. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who is also a co-chair of the task force, said as Singapore is now 18 days — about 2 weeks — into the current wave, it is likely to see cases increase exponentially, potentially hitting a peak of around 3,000 before it begins to stabilise.
But how this actually unfolds will depend on what Singaporeans do collectively — including whether it tests extensively, he said. Nevertheless, Ong said Singapore is sticking to its course for now on a transition towards endemic living.
"As far as possible, we don't want to reverse course in our transition plan… But we're not racing ahead, we are actively responding, watching and monitoring, he said. Finance minister Lawrence Wong, who is also the co-chair of the task force, said, Very soon, we will reach 1,000 cases a day. And in a few weeks time, we will probably get to 2,000 new cases a day.
"All countries that have opened up have had to deal with such waves. For us, it's happening faster than we had expected. And that's why we have to take a more cautious approach in the current situation and make sure that we adjust quickly to this fluid and rapidly changing infection situation." Singapore has so far reported a total of 70,039 cases, including 457 infections recorded on Thursday, while 57 people have died due to the deadly disease.