82 new Omicron cases in S'pore, spike due to change in Covid-19 testing practice: MOH

The new cases included 186 locally transmitted cases, comprising 177 from the community and nine from the migrant workers' dormitories. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore confirmed 82 new cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant on Friday (Dec 24), comprising 17 local and 65 imported cases.

This is the largest number of Omicron cases reported in a single day since the variant was first detected earlier in December. As at Monday (Dec 20), the country had recorded 65 imported Omicron cases and six in the community.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the large number of Omicron cases reported was a "one-time substantial increase" as it has changed its testing practice.

In an update published on its website on Friday, it said: "From today, Covid-19 cases tested positive for the S-gene target failure (SGTF) will be categorised as Omicron cases, without additional whole genome sequencing (WGS)."

"Based on our local experience, if a person tests positive for SGTF, it is very likely that it is an Omicron variant."

MOH added that this practice is aligned to those in other countries, and does not change Singapore's existing public health measures, which are already triggered on the basis of detecting SGTF.

"Due to this change, the number of Omicron cases will see a one-time substantial increase from the last update, as samples pending WGS have been included in today's count," it said.

In all, there were 265 new Covid-19 cases reported on Friday, of which 79 were imported.

There were no deaths reported from the virus for the first time since Sept 19.

Singapore's death toll stands at 820.

The new cases included 186 locally transmitted cases - comprising 177 from the community and nine from the migrant workers' dormitories.

The weekly infection growth rate is at 0.52, down from 0.57 on Thursday. This refers to the ratio of community cases for the past week over the week before.

The growth rate has been below one since Nov 13.

MOH added that the utilisation rate of the intensive care unit stands at 51.7 per cent, up from 50 per cent the day before.

There are 413 patients in hospital, with 45 requiring oxygen supplementation.

As at Friday, Singapore's total case tally stands at 277,307.

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