SINGAPORE: Circuit breaker measures need to be lifted "carefully and slowly", as the number of COVID-19 community cases is "likely" to increase as some of the measures are rolled back, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (May 15).
Responding to a question at a multi-ministry task force press conference, Mr Gan said: “We have to bear in mind that today, the community cases are low, primarily because of the circuit breaker measures that we have put in place, including that we have actually moved a lot of the working environment to home-based telecommuting, and we have actually stopped the bulk of the construction work in Singapore.”
As more people return to work and as more activities are allowed to resume, Singapore has to be "very careful", he added.
“Because if we are not careful, the number of cases will spike up, and you may have big clusters forming again.”
Singapore reported 793 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 26,891.
As of Thursday, the number of community cases has remained in the single digits for five consecutive days.
READ: COVID-19: Singapore reports smallest daily number of community cases since start of circuit breaker
A "step-by-step" and "cautious" approach is needed when lifting circuit breaker measures, Mr Gan said.
He added: "We do expect that as you open up more, as some of the circuit breaker measures are rolled back or relaxed, we will likely to see number of cases in the community go up.
“We hope that if we do it carefully and do it right, the number, even as it goes up, it will continue to go up slowly, and it will continue to remain under control and we will be able to step up our contact tracing, our quarantine efforts to minimise the risk of transmission in the community, and minimise the risk of large clusters being formed."
If there is a big cluster or a sharp spike in the number of cases, some circuit breaker measures might be reintroduced to "suppress the number of cases".
The task force is “watching very closely” as the restrictions are eased, but studying the number of community cases and how they are linked or unlinked will be key, said the Ministry of Health's director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
"But it's all contingent really on us, continuing to do our bit, to not go out unnecessarily, not to mix and have too much close contact,” added Assoc Professor Mak.
“Even as we start to carry out some of these activities again, the social interactions have to change. And we must be mindful that these are the at-risk activities and in fact could potentially lead to clusters forming.”
Watch the full news conference and Q&A session: