4 things S’pore must do to cope with any potential Covid wave, according to Ong Ye Kung

The next Covid-19 wave could hit Singapore in July or August and Singapore must make sure that healthcare facilities are Covid-ready, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

He was speaking at Ministry of Health Workplan Seminar on June 2, 2022, where he mapped out the ministry’s Healthier SG strategy and gave an update on the Covid situation in Singapore.

With South Africa experiencing its fifth Covid wave driven by the Omicron sub variant of BA.4. and BA.5, he said that it could hit Singapore in a matter of months, “maybe July or August”.

That said, it is a short-lived wave. Statistics showed that its peak was about a third of the Omicron wave and is starting to turn down and there wasn’t a very sharp rise in terms of hospitalisation and deaths, said Minister Ong.

He added that there’s optimism that Singapore, with its very high vaccination rate and having gone through the Delta and BA.2 waves, can cope.

“We feel BA.4, BA.5, are waves that we can ride through. But we must not be complacent and still be prepared for it.”

“We cannot afford another situation like Omicron, where many healthcare settings were unable to handle Covid-19 patients and had to send them to our hospitals. Nursing homes, for example, were unable to handle these patients. Private hospitals that were unable to handle Covid-19 patients had to send them to public hospitals. Every healthcare setting need to be Covid-ready and be able to handle infections and take care of patients. With vaccination, most will recover uneventfully,” he added.

He outlined four ways Singapore can prepare for any future Covid-19 wave.

1. Providing home care services

One of the most important things to do is to free up more hospital beds and having home care services will ensure that.

2. Ramping up nursing home

Ramping up nursing homes with more beds will relieve hospitals when the waves come because there are many long-term stayers in hospitals who are actually waiting for their nursing home place.

“If we can ramp up our nursing homes, we will be able to absorb and take in all these patients, and it will relieve our hospitals when the BA.4, BA.5 waves come,” he said.

3. Changing the concept of Covid-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs)

CTFs were set up last year to take in elderly Covid-19 patients who are mildly symptomatic and have underlying chronic illnesses.

That have to change.

Minister Ong said: “We need to change the concept so that it can take in any patient who does not require the same level of acute care as they would in public hospitals. It may mean consolidating the beds and manpower so that we can take care of patients.”

4. Getting our seniors vaccinated

Lastly, we must get all our seniors vaccinated, he added.

Although 88 per cent of seniors aged 60 and above who are eligible have taken their boosters, there are still 12 per cent who have not.

“And when the wave hits, they are the most vulnerable. As they are not fully vaccinated, when they are infected, we still see quite a number of them going into ICU. If we do all this, I believe we can ride through the BA.4, BA.5 waves.”

Cover photo credit: Ong Ye Kung Facebook page