SINGAPORE - In-person visits to hospital wards and residential care homes will be suspended for the next four weeks amid a surge in Omicron Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks.
This is to protect Singapore's healthcare capacity and vulnerable seniors, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday (Jan 21).
The suspension will last from next Monday (Jan 24) to Feb 20.
Speaking at a multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 press conference on Friday, director of medical services Kenneth Mak said: "We regret that this measure will inconvenience families who seek to visit and support their loved ones in the hospitals and in the homes, but this is to protect their health and welfare."
He added that the authorities will review the need for these restrictions when the community situation improves.
Singapore reported 1,001 new cases with the Omicron variant on Thursday. Of these, 952 were local cases and 49 were imported.
The weekly Covid-19 infection growth rate also rose to 2.17 on Thursday, the first time since Sept 19 last year that Singapore's weekly infection growth rate has gone above 2.
MOH said hospitals and homes will have the discretion to allow visitors for exceptional cases, for example, if the patient or resident is critically ill.
To ensure that patients and residents remain connected with their loved ones, hospitals and homes will help to facilitate alternative methods of communication, such as through telephone or video calls.
Some patient groups will continue to be allowed visitors on a case-by-case basis, as assessed by the hospitals. These are patients who are critically ill, paediatric patients, birthing or post-partum mothers, and patients that require additional care support from caregivers.
These patients would be allowed only one pre-designated visitor, with one visit a day.
Those who are critically ill may be allowed up to five pre-designated visitors, with a maximum of two visitors at the patient's bedside at any one time.
All visitors to hospital wards must wear face masks with good filtration capability, such as surgical masks and reusable masks that are made of two layers of fabrics.
No eating or drinking will be allowed in the wards. Visitors must not use the patients' toilets in the wards and must avoid sitting on the beds.
They will also need to produce a valid negative antigen rapid test (ART) result obtained within the last 24 hours of the visit.
The ART is compulsory for all visitors regardless of vaccination status, except for those who have recovered from Covid-19 and can present a valid pre-event test exemption notice.
Fully vaccinated or medically ineligible visitors can perform an unsupervised self-administered ART or choose to go for a supervised ART.
Those who opt for an unsupervised self-administered ART will be required to show evidence of a valid result, for example, present a time-stamped photo of the dated ART result and a photo ID for verification.
Non-fully vaccinated visitors will need to take a supervised ART from approved test providers. Results from an unsupervised self-administered ART will not be accepted for this group of visitors.