SINGAPORE - Singapore has arrived at a critical juncture in its battle against Covid-19, even as it is becoming more resilient against the virus, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Saturday (Nov 20).
On the same day, the Ministry of Health announced the easing of curbs on dining and social gatherings, bringing an end to nearly two months of a so-called stabilisation phase.
In deciding on taking steps to relax restrictions, a few indicators of Singapore's improving pandemic situation were considered, said Mr Ong.
Here are the key figures mentioned by the minister during a press conference by the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19 here:
1. Comedown from '5 cycles of doubling'
Cautioning that Singapore was still undergoing a "fairly big wave of transmission", Mr Ong noted that this started in the last week of August, with 100 positive cases recorded daily then.
This went through "five cycles of doubling" and reached a seven-day moving average peak of around 3,200 at the end of October, he added.
After that, the number of daily infections stabilised and started to come down - and in parallel, the week-on-week infection growth rate started falling below one.
This rate refers to the ratio of community cases in the past week over the week before. When consistently below one, it shows that the number of new weekly cases is declining.
2. Drop to slightly over 15,000 patients in system
Mr Ong noted that the number of Covid-19 patients in Singapore's healthcare system, with most of them on the home recovery programme, has dipped in recent weeks.
It stayed consistently above 20,000 throughout October and peaked at 26,386 on Oct 29, but has been falling since - to below 20,000 on Nov 7 and now, slightly over 15,000.
About 3,000 patients, also mostly on home recovery, continue to be discharged every day, said Mr Ong.
3. R value steady at 0.9-1
The reproduction value, or R, has held at around 0.9 to 1 despite a noticeable increase in footfall throughout Singapore over the past few weeks, the Health Minister added.
R estimates the average number of people that one positive Covid-19 patient can infect.
"More and more people are coming out socialising, and they are out and about," he said, noting that footfall across popular destinations was only about 5 per cent less than in early September, when groups of five were allowed to dine at eateries.
"This is a good sign. It means that more human activity did not drive infections and hospitalisations up," he said. "What it means is this: That our society is becoming more resilient to the virus."
4. 5 out of 1,000 people falling seriously ill or dying
At the peak of Singapore's current surge in cases - its worst since the start of the pandemic, although numbers have waned recently - the average number of patients hospitalised and needing oxygen supplementation or intensive care unit (ICU) attention was about 420.
This has since fallen to around 370.
For ICU cases alone, the number has fallen from 140 in the last week of October to 110 at present.
Mr Ong said that from August to October, the number of patients falling severely ill, needing ICU care or dying dropped from 12 per 1,000 infected individuals to five per 1,000.
"If we track beyond October to have a November number, I think very likely it will go even below five," he added.
5. Fall to less than 40 unvaccinated seniors infected daily
Unvaccinated seniors make up 1 per cent of the total population and 6 per cent of all seniors, but two-thirds of the ICU population.
Fewer of them are now getting infected, said Mr Ong, pointing to how the number of daily cases fell from 119 on Oct 19 to less than 40 in the past week.
He attributed this improvement to the shrinking population of unvaccinated seniors, with Singapore's vaccination teams continuing to reach out to them in their homes.
The number of unvaccinated people aged above 60 dropped from 65,000 at the end of October to slightly over 59,000 as at Saturday.
"So 5,000 more became fully vaccinated in a matter of two weeks, and many lives were saved as a result, I think," said Mr Ong.