'Questions' must be answered before any decision on circuit breaker: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE — Several "questions" must be answered in the coming days before the government decides whether it is necessary to impose another circuit breaker (CB), said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday evening (16 May).

Ong, who was speaking at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) on COVID-19, was asked why authorities did not go straight into another circuit breaker, given the rising number of community cases recently. On Sunday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed the detection of 38 local transmissions as of noon, with 18 cases unlinked.

"This is a particularly difficult time to answer that question because you can see the cases rising, and whether the trajectory goes exponentially or flattens...which direction it goes, we will only know in the coming days," said Ong. He pointed out that it was only the first day of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), with restrictions including a ban on dining in at F&B establishments, which are considered "high risk settings" as they are enclosed spaces occupied by individuals without masks.

"By removing the most risky settings, I think we will make an impact. And furthermore, there is also an indirect impact because once these (F&B) places are closed (for dining in), the general activity (does) go down," said the minister, who added that with home-based learning for students starting next week, activities in the community will be reduced even further.

Secondly, all those with acute respiratory infection (ARI) symptoms who consult a doctor will be subjected to Antigen Rapid Testing (ART), as well as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that all such patients are already subjected to. ART typically produces results in about 30 minutes. In comparison, a PCR test typically takes a day but its results are more accurate.

"Are we able to flush out cases much more quickly in the coming days? And we also want to find out that answer," Ong said.

Lastly, MOH is studying the testing data based on two key issues: what is the severity of infection amongst those who have been vaccinated, or amongst those infected by others who have been vaccinated? During the recent outbreak, some 76 individuals who were vaccinated with at least one dose were infected, but none are in intensive care, Ong noted.

"When the time is right, we will make the right decisions. And if it has to come to more stringent measures, as (Finance Minister) Lawrence (Wong) has said in the last MTF, we will do so and if it's a CB, we will say it is a CB."

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