Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said that the government does not take the trust that people have in the government for granted. The decision to tighten restrictions temporarily was a very difficult one to make and one that the government did not make lightly.
“We knew it would cause pain, frustration and anger amongst many people who have been looking forward to continued reopening. We understand that but collectively, when we look at the data and the evidence together with our medical experts, we just felt that there was a huge risk of the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed and we have to protect the healthcare system. And that’s why we made the decision we did,” Mr Wong said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Protecting the healthcare system from being overwhelmed will ensure that those who are sick with Covid-19 can be given the timely care they need.
Singapore’s overall strategy to progressively reopen our economy and our society has not changed, Mr Wong said.
But the aim has always been to do this without putting too much stress in our hospital system and to avoid unnecessary deaths that may arise when the entire healthcare system gets overwhelmed, he said.
2 priorities: stabilise healthcare protocols, augment hospital capacity
With the temporary restrictions, the government will be focused on 2 priorities: stabilising healthcare protocols including the new protocol for people to recover at home, and augmenting our healthcare capacity by bringing in more medical centres to deal with the much larger volume of daily cases. To this end, the government is sparing no efforts. The government wants to be able to deal with a surge of as high as 5000 cases a day.
Augmenting our hospital capacity is not just a matter of increasing the number of medical centres and facilities, it’s also about medical personnel. The SAF has been roped in to help.
About 0.2% of cases will need intensive care. Providing timely care for the person who needs ICU care means admitting 10% of infected persons to hospitals. These are the ones the doctors have triaged and identified as the more vulnerable persons. They could be older, have more serious symptoms and/or co-morbidities. They are admitted to the hospital so that they can be monitored closely in the hospital setting and provided with timely care.
If there are 5000 cases a day, 10% of 5000 admitted to the hospital is 500 cases. Each person stays at least one week in the hospital. Our hospitals must be able to deal with this need. And this is the reason for augmenting the healthcare system with medical centres and facilities.
Once these 2 priorities are done, Singapore will press on with reopening plans. This will include the easing of local restrictions. It will also include expanding the vaccinated travel lane.
“We are moving in this journey to living with covid. That’s why you can see with the restrictions that we have taken, we have not gone back to a circuit breaker, or to a lockdown. We are tightening measures so that we can slow down the rate of transmission and use this time to augment our healthcare capacity and to be able to deal with a higher volume of cases without our healthcare system being overwhelmed. I’m quite sure even after we have stabilised our healthcare system, gotten the new capacity in place, cases will continue to be high. The virus will continue to circulate. That’s what living with covid means.
We do not take the trust that people have in the government for granted at all. And that’s why we considered this very carefully but we have no choice because this was a situation where there were indeed a lot of strain on the healthcare system. and so we seek everyone’s understanding, support and forbearance for the measures and we hope that everyone rise in solidarity with our healthcare workers who are facing a lot of pressures, working flat out in the recent weeks with the huge surge in cases.”