Singapore has changed the dynamics of its care of Covid-19 patients by treating nine in 10 of them in community facilities instead of acute hospitals.
The move not only differentiates those with mild illnesses from others with life-threatening conditions, but also saves the hospitals from being deluged.
Community facilities now house 9,878 patients - out of the 11,107 current patients. This means just 1,229 patients are still warded in acute hospitals, including 24 in critical condition.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious diseases expert, said the strategy of moving patients who are well out of hospitals has been applied for some time, even before the first isolation facility became operational on March 24.
Prof Hsu, who leads the infectious diseases programme at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said placing these patients in isolation facilities will prevent acute hospital beds from being unnecessarily filled by relatively well Covid-19 patients who would otherwise be discharged only when doctors are certain that they are no longer able to infect others.
"We have learnt that for many patients, particularly those who are young and have no chronic medical conditions, Covid-19 is no worse than an ordinary flu," he said.
"They would not have required immediate hospitalisation were it not for the need to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus to their families and close contacts."
Singapore currently has three community isolation facilities: the D'Resort NTUC chalet in Pasir Ris, which can hold 500 people; Singapore Expo, which has two operational halls that can hold 950 people, with another four halls on the way; and Changi Exhibition Centre, which can hold 2,800 people. A number of private hospitals and community hospitals, such as Concord International Hospital and Bright Vision Hospital, are also counted as community facilities.
With 897 new cases yesterday, Singapore now has 12,075 confirmed cases altogether.
Twelve have died of complications due to Covid-19 and 952 have fully recovered and been discharged. Four have died from other causes.
Just a week before, on April 17, the total number of cases was 5,050.
The official tally for patients who are still hospitalised fell significantly on Thursday after the Ministry of Health (MOH) reclassified those housed in community facilities with mild symptoms in the same category as those who are clinically well. Previously, these patients were counted together with those warded in acute hospitals.
Before the reclassification, MOH had said on Wednesday that there were 4,234 patients still in hospital and another 4,999 clinically well cases at community facilities.
MOH said on Thursday, as it revised the figures for patients in hospitals and community facilities to 1,368 and 8,874 respectively, that this was done to more accurately reflect where patients are being cared for.
Foreign workers living in dormitories made up 853 of the new cases yesterday. There were another 19 cases involving workers not living in dorms and 25 cases in the general community, comprising 13 Singaporeans and permanent residents and 12 work pass holders.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday that people who disregard safe distancing measures are putting not just themselves but also their families at risk of catching Covid-19. He also warned that those who abuse enforcement officers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. He said: "Whether you are old or young, you should be staying home."
This article has been updated for accuracy.