Three areas to watch as Singapore battles Omicron: Ong Ye Kung

The areas are: the country's ICU capacity, hospitalisation rates and the impact of the variant on the country's manpower resources. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - As Singapore tackles the Omicron wave, three areas loom large in the Health Ministry's assessment of the situation, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

These are: the country's intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, hospitalisation rates and the impact of the highly infectious variant on the country's manpower resources.

Over the weekend, ICU numbers fell slightly from 13 to nine patients, the minister said. Although a couple of Omicron patients require intensive care, none needed to be intubated.

"So we keep our fingers crossed that the ICU situation will remain stable," said Mr Ong, who was speaking at the opening of the new Outram Community Hospital on Monday (Jan 24).

On hospitalisation, Mr Ong reiterated that about 1.3 per cent of Omicron cases are hospitalised, with 0.3 per cent requiring oxygen supplementation.

And those who do require additional oxygen generally do not need it for long, with the maximum so far being five days.

"The numbers have been creeping up - both the absolute numbers as well as the percentages," Mr Ong said. "Every 0.1 per cent occupies a lot more beds, as we all know."

Lastly, there is the potential impact on manpower.

The authorities have previously warned that many people coming down with the variant at the same time could lead to service disruptions "from time to time", as people call in sick.

Mr Ong said he is most worried about this, noting that Singapore has changed its protocols so people can now come out of isolation after seven days, rather than 10 days - or even earlier if their conditions allow for it.

"It is not so much that the beds are filling up so fast, but the fact that our manpower is isolated, because of infection or as close contacts," he added.

He also thanked healthcare workers for their hard work over the past two years, adding: "We have another challenge ahead of us because of the Omicron wave.

"It is a different wave but notwithstanding that, we know that as the wave peaks - and in the coming weeks it will - it will assert pressure again on our healthcare system."

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