SINGAPORE - As Singapore moves into a new stage of living with Covid-19, changes will be made to the nation's healthcare protocols.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday (Aug 6) that there will be three main changes - increasing the number of community care facilities and adjustments to discharge protocols and the stay-home-notice (SHN) scheme.
These will begin from Aug 10, as the nation shifts to a preparatory stage in its transition to living with the coronavirus, following rising vaccination rates here, he said at a virtual press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19.
On expanding the number of community care facilities (CCFs), Mr Ong said: "As far as possible, we will admit Covid-19 patients into CCFs instead of hospitals. After all, 97.5 per cent of infected individuals have mild or no symptoms. Therefore, CCFs will be a good site for them to recover."
He noted that currently, about 40 per cent of infected individuals are admitted to community care facilities. This proportion is expected to increase as more people get fully vaccinated.
So, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is in discussions with a few facilities to see if parts of them can be converted into community care facilities.
These include Connect @ Changi, a facility opened earlier this year to allow international business travellers to stay and conduct meetings. It has 1,300 rooms.
Discharge protocols will also be adjusted.
Patients who have been fully vaccinated with mRNA vaccines will be allowed to be discharged from isolation after 10 days if their test shows that they are Covid-19 negative or have very low viral loads.
"This is because of the strong evidence showing that individuals vaccinated with mRNA vaccines present low viral loads even within 10 days from the onset of the illness," said Mr Ong.
On adjustments to the SHN scheme, he noted that currently, the great majority of travellers to Singapore still have to serve SHN.
In some cases, the authorities have allowed travellers from lower-risk countries to serve their SHN at home instead of a hotel. Close contacts of infected people have also been allowed to serve their quarantine at home.
Both of these are based on the condition that their home environments are suitable for isolation, and both schemes have been working well, said Mr Ong.
Therefore, since the situation in many countries is improving and their populations have been highly vaccinated, the home SHN scheme will be expanded to more countries.
These include lower-risk countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Italy, South Korea and Australia.
Travellers from these places can apply to serve their SHN at home, and conduct daily self-tests for the coronavirus.
Mr Ong said that as vaccination rates rise in other countries, the scheme could be expanded further.