14 active facilities set up for close contacts of Covid-19 cases, 12 more to be converted if needed: MOH

Some Omicron cases are now being sent to Oasia Hotel Novena for treatment. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Singapore is planning to nearly double the number of designated facilities for close contacts of Covid-19 cases if needed, in preparation for a possible surge in infections due to the Omicron variant.

There are 14 active designated facilities as at Wednesday (Dec 22), and the Ministry of Health (MOH) is looking to convert an additional 12 designated facilities over the next month, if required.

These facilities will be able to accommodate up to 11,000 people in total, an MOH spokesman told The Straits Times on Friday (Dec 24).

The ministry has contingency plans in place to meet various scenarios, the spokesman added.

Singapore has taken various steps to guard against the highly transmissible Omicron variant, including tightening its border measures, extending its vaccination and booster programme to more age groups, and ramping up healthcare capacity as necessary.

There are 71 confirmed Omicron cases detected in Singapore as at Monday, with 65 imported cases and six local cases.

While MOH has previously said that Omicron cases will be isolated for treatment at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), ST understands that some are now being sent to Oasia Hotel Novena for treatment.

The hotel was announced as a community treatment facility for Covid-19 cases in October, and is located near the NCID.

With the number of imported Covid-19 cases rising - hitting a record 89 cases on Thursday (Dec 23) - Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew manning flights from the United Kingdom are now required to wear protective gowns, on top of current precautions such as donning masks and goggles.

ST understands that the new precaution was introduced recently following reports of several Omicron cases among travellers from Britain.

Meal service for business class passengers for UK flights will also be scaled back to a one-tray service to limit contact between passengers and cabin crew.

The UK is among the countries that Singapore has started vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) with, to allow eligible travellers to enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine.

It is one of the most popular markets among the 24 countries that Singapore has started VTLs for.

But the Covid-19 situation there has been rapidly worsening. The UK reported a record 119,789 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, with 16,817 new Omicron cases.

MOH had also announced the suspension of all VTL ticket sales for entry into Singapore between Dec 23 and Jan 20, as it seeks to limit the number of imported Covid-19 cases.

SIA told ST that it follows the guidance of the authorities when informed of Omicron cases on its flights.

"Pilots and crew who operated on such flights are required to self-isolate and get tested for Covid-19, as the health and safety of our customers and staff members remain our priority," it said.

"SIA also works with the health authorities in all necessary contact tracing efforts when such cases are detected."

On the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant, Mr Alan Tan, president of the Singapore Airlines Staff Union, said: “Obviously the crew are concerned, but it’s part of our job.

“Hospital staff and many other front-liners are facing the same concerns as well.”

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