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Singapore must brace for 'much bigger' COVID-19 infection wave from Omicron compared to Delta variant: Ong Ye Kung

Singapore must brace for 'much bigger' COVID-19 infection wave from Omicron compared to Delta variant: Ong Ye Kung

People wearing protective face masks in Tampines in Singapore on Oct 1, 2021. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan/CNA)

SINGAPORE: Singapore must brace for a “much bigger” COVID-19 infection wave from Omicron compared to that from the Delta variant, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (Jan 5).

At its peak, the number of Omicron cases could be “a few times” more than the approximately 3,000 daily cases that the Delta variant was registering in October and November last year, Mr Ong said at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference.

Putting a number to the possible manifold increase, Ministry of Health director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak said  that the Omicron wave could reach 15,000 cases a day in a "worse-case scenario". At the highest during the Delta variant peak last year, the number of cases surpassed 5,000 cases.

Mr Ong said that while Delta infections were doubling in six to eight days, Omicron infections may double in two to three days.

However, the “silver lining” is that studies coming out of countries like South Africa, the United States and Canada is that infections from Omicron are less severe than that from the Delta variant, he said.

Mr Ong noted a similar situation in Singapore. He said of the 2,252 Omicron cases in Singapore so far, three required oxygen supplementation, but were taken off the support within three days and are recovering. None of the cases required intensive care.

LOCAL SITUATION

Over the past week, daily COVID-19 case numbers have been around 200 on average, with 16 cases currently in intensive care. These figures are significantly lower than the numbers at their peak a few months ago, “indicating that the recent wave of Delta infections has subsided”, the Ministry of Health said in a separate statement.

However, Singapore has seen a rise in the total number of confirmed Omicron cases over the past week, even as the Delta wave subsides, MOH said.

Over the past week, Singapore detected 1,281 confirmed Omicron cases, comprising 1,048 imported cases and 233 local cases. This makes up around 18 per cent of  local cases in the last week, MOH said.

“With higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant, we are likely to experience another wave of community infections soon,” MOH said.

MOH said that although there may be proportionately fewer severe cases or deaths due to Omicron’s lower severity and continued protection from Singapore’s vaccination and booster efforts, it could have an impact on the healthcare system.

“When multiplied over a much larger number of cases, it could still result in a significant number of individuals requiring intensive care unit (ICU) care, and put significant pressure on our healthcare system,” MOH said.

“Hence it is important that we put in place appropriate response measures to prepare ourselves well for this upcoming wave.”

MOH added that it would work with primary care doctors to enable them to trigger Protocol 2, to support low-risk individuals with mild COVID-19 symptoms in recovering safely in the community.

The ministry has an existing Protocol 1-2-3 approach in dealing with COVID-19, in which Protocol 2 refers to what a person should do if one is well but test positive for the virus.

“To maximise the level of protection that our population has against the Omicron variant, we will also require individuals to get their booster shots in order to maintain their fully vaccinated status, MOH said.

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Source: CNA/ja(ac)

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