SINGAPORE - Fully vaccinated nursing home residents who are infected with Covid-19 and are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic will be allowed to remain at their respective nursing home premises, instead of being transferred to a separate care facility from Wednesday (Feb 16).
The move comes as a study conducted by the Agency for Integrated Care on nursing homes found that the majority of Omicron cases in these homes have been mildly symptomatic and generally do not require the level of medical care provided at hospitals or dedicated Covid-19 care facilities.
This is in contrast to the situation seen with the Delta wave of infections, said Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak at a virtual press conference on Wednesday held by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.
These seniors who had Omicron infections in the nursing homes have benefited from the primary and booster vaccinations, which protected them from severe infections and a bad outcome, he noted.
Residents assessed to be at higher risk or show signs of clinical deterioration will continue to be taken to an appropriate care facility for further management.
Currently, nursing home residents infected with Covid-19 are moved from the homes to recover at separate care facilities.
The updated measures mean that residents who are infected but generally well will be able to recover under the care of their nursing home provider, who is most familiar with their needs, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in an accompanying statement.
"We... understand how distressing it can be for nursing home seniors to move away from familiar environments in the homes, to the hospital or the (Covid-19 treatment facilities)," Associate Professor Mak said.
Nursing home residents recovering from Covid-19 on-site will be isolated from other residents who are not infected.
"The homes will be monitoring them closely, and will provide them with appropriate care," said Prof Mak, adding that Singapore's acute hospitals will be supporting these homes to ensure that the requisite clinical expertise will be available if needed.
In-person visits to all hospital wards and residential care homes will be further suspended for four weeks through to March 20, as part of continued efforts to safeguard Singapore's healthcare system and vulnerable groups.
Visits had previously been suspended for four weeks through to Feb 20, in the light of the surge of Covid-19 cases in the community.
In its statement on Wednesday, MOH said there will be a review of the suspension of in-person visits after two weeks.
Hospitals and residential care homes have the discretion to allow visits in exceptional cases, such as if the patient or resident is critically ill.
Their visitors will have to comply with various measures such as pre-visit testing requirements.
MOH added that hospitals and homes will continue to support alternative methods of communication such as through telephone or video calls, to ensure that patients and residents remain connected with their loved ones.
Read next: What you need to know about Singapore's latest Covid-19 measures