Further monitoring of COVID-19 situation needed before any decision on circuit breaker, says Ong Ye Kung

Further monitoring of COVID-19 situation needed before any decision on circuit breaker, says Ong Ye Kung

Ong Ye Kung MTF press conference May 16, 2021
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung speaks at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on May 16, 2021. (Photo: MCI)

SINGAPORE: Local authorities need to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Singapore further before deciding later if there is a need for a second "circuit breaker", said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (May 16).

The minister was answering a question from CNA about how he would respond to calls for a return to a full circuit breaker amid an increase in community infections.

Singapore on Sunday reported 38 new community cases, the highest daily number of infections reported since Apr 14 last year. Of these new cases, 17 are unlinked.

READ: COVID-19: Primary, secondary schools and JCs to move to full home-based learning from May 19

Mr Ong said it was “a particularly difficult time” to answer the question as the trajectory of the recent spike in cases remains to be seen in the coming days.

“You can see the cases rising and whether the trajectory goes exponentially up or flatten – which did happen (during) Chinese New Year this year, we saw cases going up and then it flattened and then it disappeared - which direction it goes, we will only know in the coming days.

“So all I can say is as of now, we need to monitor the situation and then come to a decision later.”

Mr Ong said he was not trying to stall the question but authorities “genuinely need to have some questions answered”.

Firstly, tightened measures, including a new limit of two people for all social gatherings and a ban on dine-ins at all food and beverage establishments, only kicked in on Sunday.

These stricter rules, which will be in place until Jun 13, remove “the most high-risk settings” of crowded enclosed spaces that allow people to take their masks off.

“By removing the most risky settings, I think we will make an impact,” said Mr Ong, adding that this will also have an indirect impact of reducing general activities as people head out less often. 

READ: Group sizes down from 5 to 2, dining-in suspended as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures

The new announcement on Sunday that all primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges and Millennia Institute, will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday, will “reduce activity even more”, he said.

“We know there will be an impact and I think we will only know in the coming days,” Mr Ong said.

Other areas that authorities are still monitoring include the recent move to pair antigen rapid testing (ART) with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for all individuals who seek treatment with possible COVID-19 symptoms.

This has been done to speed up the detection of COVID-19 cases, the Health Ministry said on Friday.

READ: Singapore studying if it should extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses: Ong Ye Kung

Mr Ong said over the coming days, authorities are monitoring whether the new move will help “to flush out cases much more quickly”. 

Lastly, the Ministry of Health continues to study the severity of the disease among those who got infected after vaccination or those who got infected by someone who was vaccinated.

“As of now, we can say that for the 76 individuals who were vaccinated at least with one dose due to this round of outbreak, none require ICU. But we need to dive deeper into the data," said Mr Ong.

“So really seek answers to these questions and when the time is right, we will make the right decisions.

“And if it has to come to more stringent measures, as (Finance Minister Lawrence Wong) has said in the last (multi-ministry task force press conference), we will do so. And if it is a (circuit breaker), we will say it is a (circuit breaker).”

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Source: CNA/sk

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