The MTF's focus has shifted to ramping up healthcare (through the expansion of COVID-19 treatment facilities), familiarising people with the new self-isolation protocols, and more. Here are all the big updates.
About a week after Singapore entered the "Stabilisation Phase", the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) announced updates to the nation's borders, with a view to "align border measures with domestic protocols and the evolving situation in other countries/regions". New information was also announced on possibly expanding the booster programme for COVID-19 vaccinations.
We've summed up the key announcements for you below.
1. Progress on tightened measures under Stabilisation Phase
The vast majority – over 98% – of infected individuals in this period have had mild or no symptoms, as a result of the high vaccination rate. As such, the focus is now on:
- Ramping up healthcare and response capacity to cope with the rising cases,
- Familiarising people with the new healthcare protocols, such as the Home Recovery Programme and the self-isolation protocol for asymptomatic individuals who test positive on antigen rapid test (ART) self-test kits.
On this, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, said: "There are teething issues. We know it is frustrating for those who have difficulties getting through to our helplines, and that is why as Minister Ong (Ye Kung) said just now, the entire team is working flat out, together with reinforcements from the SAF to resolve these outstanding issues."
The MTF noted that the full effect of the latest tightening measures is not seen yet as it usually takes a week or more before the impact can be observed.
While the daily number of cases continue to rise (at the current trajectory, we may cross 3,200 daily cases soon, and may start to see 5,000 cases daily around mid-October), the rate of increase appears to have slowed down slightly, i.e. the time taken for the doubling of community cases has lengthened from about eight days to about 10 days.
2. COVID-19 vaccination boosters may possibly be expanded
The nation's Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V) has been deliberating on recommending a booster vaccination for additional population groups, such as healthcare workers, frontline workers, and persons in other vulnerable settings beyond nursing homes.
This has already been recommended in some countries and there is a good basis to do so. On this, MTF said more details will be released when ready, noting that while awaiting the formal recommendations of EC19V, MOH stands fully ready to support this extension.
3. Assurance on the efficacy of the home recovery model
MTF addressed the home recovery model, whereby fully vaccinated individuals aged 12 to 69 years are encouraged to rest, take plenty of fluids, and recover in the comfort of home under this programme.
The following individuals continue to remain eligible for the home recovery programme:
- Fully vaccinated with PSAR mRNA vaccine,
- Aged 12-69 years old,
- No other severe illnesses or diseases, and
- No household members above 80 years old or belonging to the vulnerable group.
MTF assured: "We would like to reassure these individuals that it is safe to do so as vaccination is highly protective against severe illness, as local and overseas data has consistently showed. For those whose home conditions are really not suitable for Home Recovery, we will assess them on a case-by-case basis, and allow some to recover at one of our Community Care Facilities."
4. Active expansion of treatment facilities for higher-risk patients
To augment the hospital capacity, Singapore is actively growing its COVID-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs, previous known as Community Treatment Facility). Over the past week, four CTFs with a capacity of 580 beds. This will grow to nine CTFs with an overall capacity of about 3,700 beds by the end of October.
The CTFs will be used to care for higher-risk patients who need close observation, but do not need hospital care, for example, seniors with co-morbidities who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
5. Border measures updated in line with the shorter incubation period of the Delta variant and evolving global situation
Please head over here for the full set of changes announced to align Singapore's border measures with domestic protocols and the evolving situation in other countries/regions. Essentially, we've broken down changes under the following areas:
Reduction in quarantine period,
Reduction in assessment of travel history,
Reduction in stay-home notice (SHN) period and eligibility to serve SHN at home,
New categories assigned to some countries/ regions,
Vaccination as entry requirement for long-term pass holders.
We've summarised all the key border updates for you here.
Lead image / Minister Lawrence Wong