SINGAPORE — The coming wave of Omicron cases may see up to 15,000 cases of the coronavirus per day in the "worst case scenario", said the Ministry of Health's director of medical services Kenneth Mak on Wednesday (5 January).
Echoing Health Minister Ong Ye Kung's concern that the next wave may be bigger than the Delta wave that emerged in October and November, peaking at about 5,000 cases a day, Associate Professor Mak said that an Omicron wave may "far exceed" this and hit between 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day.
"This concern is consistent with the experience in other countries like in the UK, in Denmark, other European countries and in South Africa," said Prof Mak, who was addressing reporters at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19.
A total of 2,252 Omicron cases have been detected in Singapore thus far, with 118 imported cases and 438 local cases. Three required oxygen supplementation and no individual has been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).
But Prof Mak warned that there is a "growing number" of Omicron cases even as the wave of Delta infection subsides. In the past week alone, 1,281 confirmed Omicron cases have been detected. "So over the last week, the incidence of Omicron cases has risen sharply," said Prof Mak, who noted that they comprise an average of about 18 per cent of all COVID-19 cases reported to MOH.
"The proportion will rise further, driven by the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant compared to Delta and other variants," according to Prof Mak. The risk of re-infections amongst people who had previously recovered from COVID infection could also increase due in part to a lower vaccine efficacy against Omicron, he added.
Emerging international data on Omicron shows that there is a lower correlation between the number of infections and the number of severe infections that require hospitalisation, oxygen supplementation or ICU care.
However, Prof Mak warned that the overall high number of infection means a significantly higher number of Omicron cases who are hospitalised, despite the general lower severe infection risk. This can threaten to overwhelm the limited bed capacity in Singapore's hospitals, as seen in hospitals in the UK.
Prof Mak said, "The situation can be further compounded by a larger proportion of the healthcare workforce coming down with infections themselves when they are exposed to infection in their own homes and households, and they have to be placed on medical leave."
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