SINGAPORE — Singapore will face its next wave of COVID-19 infections in a “matter of months", as early as July or August, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (2 June).
The country confirmed its first three cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are driving South Africa's fifth wave, two weeks ago.
Addressing healthcare workers at his ministry’s annual work plan seminar, Ong said while the impending wave is something Singapore can "ride through", it must remain prepared for any outcome.
Part of the reasons why Singapore can afford to be "quietly optimistic" in its ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus is because of its high vaccination coverage and mask-on rules, the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce co-chair added.
With vaccination, most cases recover from the disease “uneventfully”, Ong said.
However, Singapore cannot afford to face the same situation brought on by the previous Omicron wave, where many healthcare settings were unable to handle COVID-19 patients and had to send them to hospitals, he added.
To ease the pressure on the healthcare system once the next wave hits, Singapore must make sure that healthcare facilities can handle the COVID-19 patient load and are prepared with more hospital beds, Ong said.
One way to free up such beds is to ramp up the number of beds in nursing homes so that long-term hospital patients waiting to be placed in such homes can be moved there.
Secondly, COVID-19 community treatment facilities must be redesigned to take in patients who do not require the acute care that a hospital provides, regardless of their illness, Ong added. Set up last year, such facilities look after elderly COVID-19 patients who are medically stable but require closer monitoring.
Singapore must also focus booster vaccination efforts on those aged 60 and above as the age group is "most vulnerable" when the next COVID-19 wave hits, according to Ong. Some 12 per cent of these seniors have not been boosted.
"If we do all this, I believe we can ride through the BA.4, BA.5 waves," he said.
To date, 1,310,616 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Singapore, with 1,389 deaths due to the disease.
As of Wednesday, 92 per cent of the city-state's total population have completed their full COVID-19 vaccine regimen, while 76 per cent have received their booster shots.
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