SINGAPORE: More than two weeks after Singapore entered a heightened alert phase to reduce the spread of COVID-19, things are “nudging” in the right direction, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (May 31).
Singapore implemented tighter measures on May 16, which includes reducing the size of group gatherings from five people to two people and ceasing dining-in at food and beverage outlets. The measures are scheduled to last through Jun 13.
Mr Ong said during a multi-ministry task force press conference on Monday that the Health Ministry has been monitoring data since the new measures kicked in, and has seen a drop in unlinked cases.
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Dividing the past two weeks into half, he said that 182 cases were reported between May 17 and 23.
Of those, 57 per cent were linked cases who had already been quarantined, Mr Ong said.
Another 21 per cent were also linked to previous cases, but not quarantined, said Mr Ong, citing the example of those who were detected through a special testing operation for people who visited the Jem/Westgate cluster. Twenty-two per cent were unlinked.
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After the tighter measures, the number of cases fell to 136 infections between May 24 and 30. Of those, 57 per cent were linked and quarantined, 25 per cent were linked but not quarantined and 18 per cent were unlinked.
“Unlinked cases means they are quietly transmitting the virus in the community,” he said, adding that the fewer there are, the better.
“The more we can shift this number away to linked cases or better still, linked and quarantined cases, the lesser will be the spread of the disease, and the more we can bring the overall number down and suppress this wave of transmission,” he said.
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An “encouraging sign” of how Singapore is handling the “current wave” of transmission is that close to 70 per cent of all linked new cases every day are due to household transmissions, he said.
“They are not due to dramatic movements or like parties or whatever but usually the movement patterns are quite mundane home, work, (takeaway) food, grocery shopping, and so on,” he said.
He noted that other than the Jem/Westgate cluster, there were “no major transmission settings over the last 10 days”.
“All in all, we are nudging in the right direction, but just nudging and controlling the situation. We are constantly improving our contact tracing and quarantine protocols,” he said.
However, he cautioned that the wave of infection is “not over”, and stressed the need to stay alert and vigilant in order to suppress it further.
"VERY UNLIKELY" TO RETURN TO PHASE 3 ON JUN 13
If all goes to plan, there may be a chance for some easing of measures after Jun 13, said co-chair of the multi-ministry task force Lawrence Wong.
He added, however, that it is "very unlikely" that Singapore will go "all the way back" to Phase 3.
"We will have to do this gradually and in a controlled manner. So there is some chance of relaxation but in a controlled and calibrated manner," said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.
"On the other hand, if we monitor over time and ... we see new risks emerging, new clusters emerging, more unlinked cases that we are not able to track down and pin down, then it may suggest that this is continuing a little bit more than (what) we are comfortable with and therefore we may have to take additional restrictions or precautions and safeguards based on the data."
Singapore is also extensively rolling out more and different types of tests. In the second half of May, Singapore tested more than 76,500 individuals per day, said Mr Ong.
"We will continue to step up the number of tests," he said.