Any COVID Omicron cases not allowed to undergo home recovery: Ong Ye Kung

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Singapore Jun2020 Covid-19. Singapore National Centre for Infectious Diseases NCID building exterior sign. Close up.
Singapore National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) building. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Cases who are confirmed or suspected to be infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will not be allowed to undergo home recovery, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday (30 November).

Instead, they will be conveyed to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for isolation and management, added Ong, who was speaking at a media conference by the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) on the coronavirus.

“If confirmed, he will be managed there until we are confident that he is not infectious through repeated testing. There is no option for HRP (home recovery programme) for this group of individuals,” Ong said.

The minister said that thus far, there are no cases of the Omicron variant that have been detected in Singapore. While the Delta variant took three to four months to become the predominant variant globally, the Omicron variant may be faster in transmission, he added.

His comments come amid rising global fears of the latest COVID-19 variant, as authorities around the world tightened measures to prevent its spread, including banning the entry of international travellers.

The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak also spoke on the need to isolate any such Omicron cases from the community at the conference.

“This is a more cautious stance simply because we don't know what the behaviour of Omicron infection is... we feel it's prudent to just isolate them further at this time,” said Associate Professor Mak.

By grouping any such cases at a single facility, the authorities can study them more closely and have better experience in dealing with Omicron infections, Prof Mak added.

In a statement on Tuesday, the MOH said there has been a rapid increase in the proportion of cases that are infected by the Omicron variant in South Africa. As of Monday, the variant had been detected in at least 13 other countries, mainly from persons with recent travel history.

"More cases are expected globally as countries continue to enhance their surveillance for the variant. The overall COVID-19 incidence rate in South Africa remains low, but is increasing," MOH said.

The MTF also announced on Tuesday a series of additional travel-related measures due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

From Friday, air travellers entering or transiting through Singapore must undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, as part of new measures to detect and contain the variant.

In addition, air travellers on the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) who arrive after the cut-off date must undergo additional supervised self-administered antigen rapid tests (ART) at a Quick Test Centre on days three and seven after their arrival.

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