SINGAPORE - A person who suspects he has Covid-19 could get a medical certificate (MC) from his doctor who will tell him to isolate and get himself tested at home.
Someone else could get an SMS informing him of exposure to the virus, with instructions to also isolate at home and conduct self-tests.
Those who are working could let their employers know that they may have been exposed to Covid-19, and be allowed to stay home without an MC.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung shared the three likely scenarios for the coming months, as he outlined how people could live with a virus that is here for the long haul.
Currently, infected people who are at higher risk of falling ill with the disease may be admitted to hospital, while those who have a lower risk may be sent to community care facilities.
"Can we imagine a time where the default is to say, 'here's an MC, go home, isolate yourself, rest, and here's a bunch of test kits. Test yourself every X number of days until you are fine, and then you can come out'," said Mr Ong, in an exclusive interview with The Straits Times' senior health correspondent Salma Khalik on Thursday (July 1).
"Or, you could let your employer know that you have been exposed to the virus and notified by MOH (Ministry of Health). Your employer should allow you to just stay at home and don't demand your MC... That is part of endemic Covid-19... It's a big psychological shift."
Changes are also afoot for those who have been exposed to the virus.
Today, they may get an SMS telling them that they will be quarantined.
"Can we imagine a day when your SMS doesn't say you're quarantined? It just says you are exposed (to Covid-19), go home, get a bunch of test kits, test yourself, isolate yourself, don't move around too much and just go out for essentials," said Mr Ong.
Touching on the psychological impact of reopening, Mr Ong said that there won't be a "big-bang opening" at the end of August or September, but a gradual one.
"The key thing is (vaccine) supplies are no longer a constraint," he said.
"We want a step-by-step approach because it enables us to better manage the higher-risk settings, which should not happen all at once. Second, you give people a sense of progression rather than waiting for that big day when everything opens and then you go crazy."
Mr Ong, together with Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong - the three chairmen of the country's Covid-19 task force, had said in an article published in ST on June 24 that the priority in the next few months would be to prepare Singapore for life with Covid-19 as a recurring, controllable disease.
When contacted, Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said that as people have been worrying about Covid-19 for the past 18 months, it will take a while for them to accept that it is okay to go about their daily lives, even though community cases continue to surface.
"Living with Covid-19 means we accept there will be some infections happening in the community, and occasionally there will be larger outbreaks. But by and large, the infected people do not end up with any acute or chronic damage to their health, and the vast majority actually experience no or mild symptoms, because these people have been vaccinated already," said Prof Teo.
"If the evidence on vaccination continues to show that a vaccinated person has a very low chance of suffering from severe symptoms once infected, even with the emergence of new variants, then this means societies, not just Singapore's, can rely on vaccination to protect individuals and communities, and to allow a resumption of pre-Covid-19 normalcy."
Read more from ST's exclusive interview with Health Minister Ong Ye Kung:
- S'pore could ease dining in rules from July 12 under 3-step plan
- Leisure travel may resume year end
- Masks to remain key even in new normal
- Perks for those vaccinated not meant to be discriminatory
- 'Sleep, exercise, work, eat': Ong Ye Kung on life amid Covid-19
- Vaccination rate needed to keep Singapore safe from Covid-19