Singapore confirms record-high of 26,032 new COVID cases, crosses 600,000 mark

People dine at a food court with tables cordoned off as a safe distancing measure amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) Omicron wave in Singapore, February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Caroline Chia
People dine at a food court with tables cordoned off amid the coronavirus Omicron wave in Singapore, on 17 February, 2022. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday (22 February) confirmed a record high of 26,032 infections in Singapore – almost twice the day before – bringing the total case count in the city-state to over 600,000.

Of the new infections, 25,731, or some 99 per cent, are local: 22,635 were detected via antigen rapid tests (ART) and 3,096 via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The remaining 301 new cases are imported. Of them, 70 were detected via ART while 231 were detected via PCR tests.

The country now has 622,293 cases of the novel coronavirus disease, less than a week after it crossed the 500,000 mark on 16 February. The previous daily high of 19,420 cases was recorded a day before on 15 February.

A total of four COVID-19 related deaths were also reported on Tuesday, bringing the death toll here to 956.

The weekly infection growth rate – or ratio of community cases for the past week over the week before – was 1.57, down from 1.62 the day before. A figure of over one means that the number of new weekly cases is on the rise.

A total of 17,163 cases were discharged, while 1,608 remain warded, up from 1,606 hospitalised cases on Monday. This marks the 18th day in a row such cases have crossed the 1,000 mark.

Of those still hospitalised, 190 require oxygen supplementation, while 46 are in the intensive care unit (ICU).

As of Monday, 91 per cent of the total population has completed the full vaccination regimen, while 66 per cent have received their booster shots.

Healthcare workers under 'severe pressure', public urged to visit hospitals only for emergencies

Hospitals, polyclinics, and general practitioner (GP) clinics are "very busy" with healthcare workers under "severe pressure", noted the MOH in a press release.

"It may take a few weeks before the transmission wave peaks and subsides," it reiterated.

This has resulted in a surge in demand for hospital beds, mostly for patients with underlying chronic illnesses to recover, the ministry said, adding that it is "doing whatever we can to support our healthcare providers".

These include ramping up capacity in hospitals, right-siting patients at COVID-19 treatment facilities (CTFs) as much as possible, spreading patient load to private hospitals, and allowing residents in nursing homes to recover in-situ.

The MOH has also supplemented healthcare manpower with the SG Healthcare Corps and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) medics, as well as further adjusted health protocols to allow more patients to be able to recover at home.

The ministry noted that many patients, who are coming forward to hospitals, polyclinics, and GP clinics, have no or mild symptoms. These patients are looking to have their antigen rapid test (ART) conducted by a medical professional and documented in the MOH’s records, or to request a medical certificate.

"This has added significant workload to our healthcare providers who are already under significant pressure and stress," said the MOH. "We urge employers not to insist that employees provide medical certificates or recovery memos if they have tested positive for COVID-19."

Instead, employers are encouraged to remind employees who are at low risk and have mild symptoms or are physically well to isolate and recover at home instead of visiting clinics or hospitals, the MOH added. They can submit a photograph of their test results or a video of them taking the ART.

The ministry also urged members of the public not to rush to a hospital emergency department, unless they are experiencing an emergency.

Patients, including children, who walk into emergency departments with non-emergency conditions, may be diverted to other urgent care clinics or primary care clinics for further assessment, it added.

To help spread out peak patient load at private clinics, the MOH said it will extend the operating hours of Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) with effect from 25 February to 10 March.

Selected PHPCs across the island will operate weekday nights up to 11pm, weekend afternoons from 2pm to 5pm, and weekend nights up to 11pm. Selected polyclinics will also be operating on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.

From 26 February, the Combined Test Centres (CTCs) will provide access to telemedicine consultations for symptomatic members of the public who go to CTCs for testing during the weekends.

The testing and consultations will be funded by the government during this period.

Individuals can also approach MOH-approved telemedicine providers who are able to provide both tele-consults and administer a real-time virtually supervised ART self-swab.

"We seek everyone’s continued effort and cooperation to do our part to preserve our medical resources for those who need them most," said the MOH.

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