Coronavirus: Task force calls for extra vigilance to protect elderly family members

Shoppers at Tiong Bahru Market on March 28, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Extra precautions are needed when dealing with senior citizens amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with people advised to avoid interacting with the elderly in their family if unwell.

Besides adhering to safe distancing measures, family members should also wash their hands with soap, which has been proven to be an effective measure against infection.

Noting that it is difficult to avoid close interaction between members of a family, including the elderly, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (March 31) urged more precautions to be exercised.

For those who share their home with elderly family members, he said they should avoid going near an elderly family member when ill.

Mr Gan co-chairs the multi-ministry task force set up to combat the spread of the virus.

The disease has claimed three lives in Singapore - a 70-year-old Singaporean man, a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man.

While each one of them had pre-existing conditions, figures released in international studies have shown that the risk of dying from Covid-19 significantly increases with age.

At a virtual press conference on Tuesday (March 31), Ministry of Health director of medical services Kenneth Mak said it is important that people do their part to protect seniors by keeping their distance.

"If you are not well, please desist from visiting them and exposing them unduly to infection," said Associate Professor Mak.

"It is important for us to take reasonable measures to protect our seniors."

In a paper published by medical journal Lancet on Monday, researchers said age was a key determining factor in serious infections, with nearly one in five over 80 years old requiring hospitalisation, compared with around 1 per cent among people under 30.

The researchers said: "There might be outlying cases that get a lot of media attention, but our analysis very clearly shows that at age 50 and over, hospitalisation is much more likely than in those under 50, and a greater proportion of cases are likely to be fatal."

In Singapore, all social activities organised by government agencies for seniors are suspended till April 30.

The People's Association, which runs many of these programmes, had said the suspension will affect 2,600 classes and 11,000 activities attended by about 290,000 participants.

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