GPs see surge in number of patients over CNY holidays, some with respiratory infection

People queueing outside Intemedical Kovan clinic on Feb 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - General practitioner (GP) clinics that remained open over the Chinese New Year holiday saw a surge in walk-in patients, some with acute respiratory infection (ARI).

Chief executive of Northeast Medical Group, Dr Tan Teck Jack, told The Straits Times that one of the eight clinics it operates saw more than 10 positive antigen rapid test (ART) cases on Wednesday morning (Feb 2).

"The safe management measures need to be in place and respected to prevent a further surge in Covid-19 cases," added Dr Tan.

Parkway Shenton Medical Group said three of its clinics that were open on Tuesday (Feb 1) and Wednesday - the first and second day of Chinese New Year - saw three times as many patients as they did in early January.

Medical director of Parkway Shenton, Dr Edwin Chng, said: "The GP clinics saw much longer queues and an influx of patients with ARI cases.

"In fact, our clinic in Punggol ran out of ART kits and we had to move stocks from other clinics.

"The surge in numbers was probably due to closure of most other clinics during Chinese New Year."

Clinics reported long queues even as the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Saturday that 988 GP clinics will be operating from Monday to Wednesday.

Northeast Medical Group's Dr Tan said the group's eight clinics were already seeing a spike in patient numbers in the week leading up to Chinese New Year.

He said it could be due to fewer clinics remaining open over the holiday period.

"We suspect Thursday is a working day for most, and that's when many will visit the clinics.

"We urge those who are sick to be patient with doctors and clinic staff and also encourage those who have non-urgent conditions to not choke the queue," said Dr Tan.

He added that employers can help by giving their staff time off instead of insisting on medical certificates issued by doctors.

The Northeast Medical clinics have also seen two to three times more Covid-19 cases than at the start of the year.

A sign indicates the cessation of patient registration at a Northeast Medical Group clinic at Sengkang Square on Feb 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

But Dr Tan added that the patients have mostly been displaying mild symptoms.

The daily community infection rate has been on the rise.

Singapore reported 6,120 new community coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from 4,241 the day before.

Experts ST spoke to said that daily Covid-19 cases could cross the 10,000 mark in the coming weeks despite muted Chinese New Year celebrations.

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But Associate Professor Jeremy Lim said Singapore has been expecting and preparing for the surge, and added that 99.7 per cent of Covid-19 cases are overwhelmingly asymptomatic or afflicted with very mild symptoms.

"The health system capacity is still well within safety bounds," said Prof Lim, who is the director of the Leadership Institute for Global Health Transformation at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in National University of Singapore.

"What's most important is still to protect the vulnerable, vaccinate and boost as many as we can, and exercise prudence in our daily activities."

President of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Professor Paul Tambyah, agreed.

He said: "I do not think that the public should be overly concerned.

"The focus should still be on protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that the elderly who are not well get to see a doctor in time."

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