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SINGAPORE — It is not possible to set a target for the number of COVID cases or those who end up in intensive care, before deciding to implement stricter safe management measures, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (10 September).
"We are in a very delicate balance of lives and livelihoods. What can society and ourselves accept at what level of ICU and morbidity? I think that is a...social discussion that is ongoing," said Ong, who was speaking to reporters at a briefing by the multi-ministry task force (MTF) on COVID-19.
"I don't think it is possible for us to now set a target on morbidity."
The MTF co-chair was responding to a reporter's question on the number of serious cases or deaths per day that is acceptable before much tighter measures have to kick in. As of Thursday, there are 26 cases of serious illness requiring oxygen supplementation, and seven in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU).
According to the MTF, Singapore can handle up to 1,000 ICU cases but aims to keep the figure below 300.
Wary of exponential growth
Earlier, Finance Minister and MTF co-chair Lawrence Wong warned that, at the current trajectory, Singapore will soon reach more than 1,000 daily cases. And he cautioned that while ICU cases currently remain low, "exponential growth" can change the situation in a matter of weeks.
"We are now focusing on being in the midst of an exponential wave of cases, which will rise very rapidly in terms of the infection numbers in the community. But we don't know yet, what will be the impact on our hospital system."
The Ministry of Health's director of medical services Kenneth Mak also stressed that the current ICU cases reflect infections that occurred one to two weeks earlier, due to the "lag phase" between people getting infected, and then deteriorating to the extent of requiring ICU care or even subsequently dying.
It is therefore necessary to monitor ICU cases over the next two weeks, to see whether with each succeeding week, the numbers in ICU begin to rise.
"And if they rise...it may be that we then need to think about additional measures that need to be taken to tamper down on transmission that takes place in the community."
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