SINGAPORE — Singapore could see as many as 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day next month if the current rate of infection persists, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (6 September).
Cases in Singapore are doubling every week, the multi-ministry COVID-19 taskforce co-chair added, and expressed concern over "not just the absolute number of cases, but the (reproduction) rate at which the virus is spreading". The reproduction rate here is currently more than 1, Wong said during a doorstop interview with local media.
In the week ending on Sunday, the number of new community cases in Singapore had doubled to more than 1,200 cases, up from about 600 in the week before.
This means Singapore could see as many as 1,000 cases per day in two weeks, or 2,000 cases per day in a month's time, Wong said.
"So we have to slow down the transmission and bring the (reproduction rate) down. We will attempt to do so without going back to another Heightened Alert. In particular, we will go for aggressive contact tracing and ringfencing of cases and clusters, and push for more pervasive testing," he added.
The enhanced measures will include increasing the frequency of the mandatory fast and easy test (FET) rostered routine testing (RRT) regime from once every fortnight to once a week, to take effect from 13 September.
The mandatory FET RRT – now in place for higher-risk settings such as food and beverage, personal care services, and gym and fitness studios – will be extended to cover more settings with frequent community interactions.
These will include workers in retail, malls, and supermarkets, as well as delivery personnel and transport workers, said Wong. All workers who have to go to work in such settings must also undergo a seven-day FET RRT regime. The government will subsidise the costs of all tests under this enhanced surveillance regime, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, until the end of this year.
Authorities will also offer companies not already on mandatory RRT eight ART kits per onsite employee, for weekly testing of their staff over a two-month period, said Wong.
Employers are expected to put in place a process to ensure that the tests are done properly, and report the results to respective government agencies.
More details for the ART kits and subsidy for tests under FET RRT will be announced at a later date.
Health Risk Warnings (HRW) and Health Risk Alerts (HRA) will also be sent out to individuals once a cluster of cases is identified to contain them quickly, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release.
While they are not quarantine orders, those who receive an HRW will be required by law to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from their first test. They will also be required to do ART tests thereafter, and a PCR test on the 14th day.
Those who receive an HRA are not subject to actions required by the law but are strongly encouraged to go for a PCR test as soon as possible, the MOH said.
Those who received either an HRW or HRA should reduce their social interactions for the next 14 days.
With these enhanced measures in place, "we will try and slow down the transmission and buy ourselves time" to get more people aged 60 and above vaccinated as well as to roll out the booster programme for seniors, Wong said.
He also stressed that the extra swabbing required in the new measures will not delay Singapore's rollout of booster shots for eligible groups as the city-state currently has more than enough supplies of vaccines.
Invites for the first batch of seniors applicable for the booster shot will be issued in two weeks' time as authorities study the possibility of administering such shots for younger adults, Wong added.
He also reiterated that while the authorities will refrain from taking "last resort measures" including going back to the heightened alert, or the circuit breaker, they will not rule them out.
Wong said, "If despite our best efforts, we continue to see or we see serious cases in ICU or needing oxygen going up sharply, then we may have no choice but to adopt a more tightened posture."
The MOH confirmed 241 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore on Monday, taking the country's total case count to 68,901. Of them, 235 cases are locally transmitted, including 110 unlinked infections, while six are imported.
In Singapore, 81 per cent of the population have completed their full regimen or received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and 83 per cent have received at least one dose.
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