Singapore watching outbreak closely, holds off on restrictions


Singapore is trying to live with COVID-19 and sees no need to tighten restrictions to address a spike in cases, but will hold off on more reopening moves while monitoring for increases in severe cases, officials said on Friday.

Singapore's new daily infections have risen sharply recently and hit 450 on Thursday, the most in a year, after containment measures were eased as part of a phased reopening upon vaccination of 80 per cent of its population.

"This rapid and exponential rise in daily infections that we are experiencing now is what every country that seeks to live with COVID-19 has to go through at some point," health minister Ong Ye Kung told a media briefing.

To support the healthcare system, the city-state will let more vaccinated patients recover at home and will start a vaccine booster programme for vulnerable groups.

Authorities have also decided to reduce quarantine from 14 days to 10 for close contacts of infected people.

A key indicator in determining reopening moves would be the number of patients in intensive care units (ICU) over the next 2-4 weeks, said Lawrence Wong, finance minister and co-chair of the coronavirus task force.

At present there are seven ICU patients and 300 beds available, which could be increased to 1,000.

If numbers stay manageable, the country will resume reopening plans, he said.

"Our ICU numbers are still low now... but we must not be complacent," Wong said.

"Severe illness typically comes two weeks or more after one catches the virus," he said, adding it could be "reckless" to further reopen right now.

Singapore has also seen more children infected, but none severely ill, according to Kenneth Mak, its director of medical services.

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