Singapore — The Multi-ministry Task Force (MTF) assigned to tackle the pandemic held a press conference on Friday afternoon (Sept 24) to announce that restrictions will be imposed afresh amid the surge in new infections.

The uptick may be expected to last for a while, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

Singapore saw on Thursday the largest number of new cases to date, with 1,504 people testing positive for Covid. 

The Ministry of Health (MOH) warned that if the current trajectory of cases continues, a new daily count of 3,200 cases may be expected by next week.

“We do not expect numbers to come down at all. In fact, they will continue to rise. But hopefully at a slower rate than before, so that we can ride through this wave without overwhelming our healthcare system.”

Mr Wong also warned that Singapore will likely not be a return to low infection numbers.

“In other words, we are not going back to a scenario of low daily cases anymore” he said. “It’s not going to be possible because we are moving forward, to learn to live with the virus, and we are continuing with our reopening plans.”

The ministers, however, said that the new restrictions do not mean a return to a heightened alert, but rather, “a stabilisation phase.”

According to Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, a return to tighter measures, though disappointing to many, was made in order to prevent the healthcare system from becoming overstretched, and to allow for more time to polish home recovery and home care services.

The new restrictions that the MTF announced will stay in place for one month, until Oct 25. They will be reviewed every fortnight and adjusted as the situation warrants.

“I want to assure you that Singapore remains committed to reopening. The journey may take longer so that we can do so safely. We seek your patience and support while we adjust our response to ride this wave and future waves of infections,” added Mr Gan.

Starting from Monday (Sept 27), only two people will be allowed to gather in groups. Additionally, in Food and Beverage Establishments, only two fully vaccinated people can sit together, except in hawker centres and coffee shops.

People will be on Work From Home basis for the coming month, from Sept 27 to Oct 24. Those who cannot do so will be tested weekly. Additionally, Home-Based Learning (HBL) will be extended till Oct 7 for all primary and special education schools.

As for the frustration people have felt regarding the Home Recovery programme, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that the MOH is now receiving help from the Singapore Armed Forces to answer people’s questions.

He added that around 1,200 beds will be added at the new community treatment facilities for Covid patients who have underlying conditions but are not gravely ill. This would address the backlog in cases, he added.

However, MOH is also expanding booster shots, with people aged between 50 and 59 who were fully vaccinated at least six months ago will be invited to get a third mRNA shot.

The Finance Minister also said that a $650 million support package made up of Jobs Support Scheme subsidies, rental waivers, and relief for taxi and private hire car drivers will be distributed in aid of companies that will bear the brunt of the new restrictions, but added that past reserves will not be drawn on. /TISG

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MOH: No difference in level of care for Home Recovery