MMTF co-chair Lawrence Wong answers 5 questions on the Omicron variant

08/12/2021

The discovery of the Omicron variant, naturally, creates anxiety and confusion for people.

For now, there’s still no definitive take on whether the variant is more transmissible or lethal than the other Covid-19 strains.

Though it was reported that while top scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United States say that the Omicron variant appears to be no worse than other coronavirus strains, more research is needed to judge its severity.

Co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Task Force Lawrence Wong answered some questions on Facebook and Instagram on the Omicron variant.

The Finance Minister also wrote: “Medical health experts around the world are still studying the impact of this variant, including its transmissibility and severity, as well as the risk of reinfection. Meanwhile, we have stepped up preparations, including strengthening our border measures.”

1. Will we see tighter restrictions in view of the Omicron variant?

It’s still too early to say. For now, we are taking a pause – we are not tightening and neither are making any further moves to relax. As we learn more about the variant, we will be in a better position to assess our next moves.

2. Why are we not suspending our existing Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) or closing our borders, like Israel and Japan have done?

We have tightened our bored control measures through enhanced testing protocols. But border measures alone will not stop the Omicron variant from coming into Singapore. We have to rely on other defences, including testing and tracing, Safe Management Measures (SMMs) as well as vaccines and boosters.

3. Do we have enough National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) beds to cope with Omicron and Delta cases?

We are continuing to strengthen our hospital capacity, and will set up dedicated isolation facilities for Omicron patients if necessary. We will review our healthcare protocols as we develop a better understanding of Omicron.

4. Are current vaccines effective against Omicron?

Studies on vaccine effectiveness are ongoing. But there is an emerging view amongst scientists that the current vaccines will still work in protecting people against severe illness. So vaccines and boosters remain our best defence against Omicron.

5. Are current Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits effective in detecting Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant?

Yes, the analysis so far shows that ARTs remain effective in detecting Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant.

While the situation has stabilised, the emergence of the Omicron variant is a timely reminder for us that the fight is not over.

But like we have demonstrated over the past year and a half, we are resilient and tenacious. We can win this fight together.

You can view his full post here.

Cover image credit: Lawrence Wong Facebook page.