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Singapore's COVID-19 approach not a 'flip-flop' and has prevented massive deaths: Ong Ye Kung

Singapore's COVID-19 approach not a 'flip-flop' and has prevented massive deaths: Ong Ye Kung

People wearing face masks at Ang Mo Kio neighbourhood centre in Singapore on Sep 30, 2021. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: While Singapore’s approach to dealing with COVID-19 may appear to be a “flip-flop” to some, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said it has helped the country prevent the massive number of deaths that many countries have suffered.

In managing COVID-19, Singapore chose a path that was “unique in the world”, Mr Ong said on Monday (Oct 18) at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Asia-Pacific Conference.

“We did not take a purist ‘zero COVID’ or ‘living with COVID’ approach. We adopted an eradication strategy when our population was vulnerable, mainly last year and earlier part of this year,” he said.

“After vaccines have given us a protective shield, we are opening up progressively, and avoiding a sudden lifting of all restrictions. Some may feel that this middle of the road approach is perhaps unclear, and may even appear to be a ‘flip-flop’,” he said.

“But it has helped us avert the massive deaths that many countries have suffered," he added.

“It is the correct approach for Singapore, and day by day, we are moving closer to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Singapore has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, with daily infections exceeding 3,000 on some days. As of Sunday, the country's death toll from the virus stands at 233, of which 178 - more than 76 per cent - occurred between September and October.

According to statistics from the Health Ministry, the majority of those who died were above the age of 70.

With the “great majority” of the population fully vaccinated, Mr Ong said COVID-19 is no longer life-threatening for most people, and the country will have to start transitioning to living with the coronavirus.

Singapore is mobilising more manpower resources, roping in those who were previously deployed to help with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab operations which authorities are doing less of. About 1,600 trained volunteers have stepped forward to help, said Mr Ong.

CNA previously reported that some hospital workers were being pushed to the limit amid the exponential surge in infections.

Mr Ong noted that healthcare protocols have been simplified and those in private sector hospitals have also been called to help share the burden.

Under the new protocols, which kicked in last week, there will only be three sets of rules. One for those who have symptoms and test positive; those with no symptoms but test positive; and close contacts of a positive case.

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Source: CNA/vl(gs)


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