No 'flip-flop' on COVID strategy, 'massive deaths' averted: Ong Ye Kung

·Editorial Team
·2-min read
SINGAPORE - JUNE 02:  Singapore Minister for Education and Second Minster for Ministry of Defence, Ong Ye Kung attends the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi orchid naming ceremony at the National Orchid Gardens on June 2, 2018  in Singapore. Narendra Modi is on a three day official visit to Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has denied that Singapore's COVID management strategy amounts to a "flip-flop", claiming that its "middle-of-the-road approach" and strict controls throughout the large part of the past 20 months of the pandemic has helped avert the "many tragic deaths" seen in other countries. 

"It is the correct approach for Singapore and, day by day, we are moving closer to the light at the end of the tunnel," said Ong in his opening address at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Asia Pacific Conference on Monday morning (18 October).

Ong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force (MTF) on COVID-19, stressed that the city-state did not take a purist 'zero-COVID' or ‘living with COVID’ approach. Instead, it adopted an eradication strategy when the population was vulnerable. "After vaccines have given us a protective shield, we are opening up progressively, and avoiding a sudden lifting of all restrictions.

"Some may feel that this middle-of-the-road approach is unclear, and may even appear to be a 'flip-flop'. But it has helped us avert the massive deaths that many countries have suffered from," claimed Ong.

The Ministry of Health is mobilising more manpower resources, with 1,600 trained volunteers stepping forward to help with polymerase chain reaction swab operations. Private sector hospitals are also being roped in to help share the load and the burden, said Ong.

The MTF has attracted much criticism for constantly changing safe management measures and healthcare protocols, with Ong acknowledging the need to simplify the "many and complex" protocols. Earlier this month, Ong claimed that the government has always planned for the possibility of a "big surge" in COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, nine more individuals died of COVID-19, as 3,058 new cases were confirmed, bringing the country's total case count to 148,178. It marked the 28th day in a row with COVID fatalities reported in Singapore. A total of 132 people here have succumbed to it thus far this month with 233 deaths in the pandemic to date.

Singapore is now transitioning into the endemic phase of the pandemic, with officials stressing the need to live with the coronavirus. From Tuesday, vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) will be opened for fully-vaccinated travellers from eight more countries to Singapore: Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Only up to two persons per group who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are currently allowed to dine in at hawker centres and coffee shops, and enter shopping malls and attractions. 

On 27 September, Singapore returned to a two-person dining-in rule for a period of four weeks as it aimed to slow down community COVID-19 transmission.

The MTF is set to review these measures by this Sunday.

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