Forum: Should daily reports focus only on those who are likely to fall very ill?

The recent move to tighten safe management measures is not surprising but disappointing. The work-from-home policy may thin out the crowds. But some feel the vaccinated are being "penalised" with the dining-in numbers at F&B establishments reduced from five to two while the number allowed at hawker centres and coffee shops remains at two.

The authorities have repeatedly talked about Singapore living with the virus. Thus, this reversal in dining-in numbers is confusing, perhaps even sending a negative signal to both the local population and international communities.

Some countries have placed Singapore in their higher-risk travel group as we keep focusing on the total number of new cases per day.

From the daily Ministry of Health (MOH) press statements, we can tell that:

•About 98 per cent of the infected individuals had no symptoms or mild symptoms.

•Over the past 28 days, no one 18 years and below has required oxygen supplementation or intensive care unit (ICU) care.

•An average of more than 80 per cent of infected individuals who need oxygen supplementation or ICU care are 61 and above.

So is it time for MOH to report the number of just the 2 per cent new cases who are likely to fall very ill? At least one neighbouring country is already doing this.

If there are 2,000 new cases per day, 2 per cent works out to 40 cases per day. To allow for sufficient hospitalisation capacity, the percentage can be expanded to, say, 10 per cent and that will be 200 new cases.

When MOH announces 2,000 new cases per day, it causes unnecessary panic among the general public, especially those who are less informed of the more infectious Delta variant.

Of the patients who fall very ill, the elderly are much more likely to require oxygen or ICU care.

Should the authorities focus even more on this most vulnerable group? They can be identified easily at hawker centres, coffee shops and HDB void decks, chatting away for hours. Regrettably, most of them are either unmasked or improperly masked.

Besides educating them on the various safety measures, more safe distancing officers should be deployed where these seniors gather. Such deployment is less critical at shopping malls as these crowds are mostly younger people who are less likely to become very sick. That said, everyone must be socially responsible so they will not be infected and infect others.

The authorities can consider more measures (both incentives and disincentives) to further persuade the unvaccinated who are medically fit to be inoculated.

If Singapore can reduce or prevent the seniors from getting infected (particularly the unvaccinated), we can then truly move towards treating the disease as endemic.

Steven Ho Peng Hock

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