ICU v isolation for Covid-19 patients: What do the terms mean?

About 1.5 per cent of Covid-19 patients need oxygen supplementation in hospital for two to five days, said the multi-ministry task force. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - With over 80 per cent of the Singapore population fully vaccinated for Covid-19, most who do catch the virus show mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

Home recovery is the default care management model for them.

But 1.5 per cent of patients need oxygen supplementation in hospital for two to five days, the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic recently said.

Another 0.2 per cent end up needing critical care while 0.1 per cent who test positive die from Covid-19 complications.

The Straits Times spoke to Dr Louisa Sun, an infectious diseases consultant at Alexandra Hospital, to understand the terms used in updates on the local Covid-19 situation.


If admitted to a hospital, most Covid-19 patients end up in the general wards, where there is regular monitoring by doctors and nursing teams.

They may be prescribed medication to prevent them from getting sicker.

The elderly who are unvaccinated or have several underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk of severe disease, and will usually require admission.

Oxygen supplementation

Patients with more severe disease that affects their lower airways and lungs will experience difficulty breathing. They will need extra oxygen either via a nasal tubing or a face mask.

In very severe cases, patients can go into breathing failure and need to have very high concentrations of oxygen delivered to them through special nasal tubes or have a breathing machine directly take over their breathing for a while.

This procedure is called intubation.

Intensive care unit

This is for patients who are very sick and require round the clock monitoring of their breathing and other vital signs.

They may also need other intensive and specialised treatments, one of which is intubation.

The intensive care unit has the specialised monitoring equipment, breathing machines and other medical devices that can provide increased care that the patient needs.


The task force in July said isolation-type beds have been prepared in hospitals, including for those under investigations for suspected Covid-19 infection.

Dr Sun said the period of isolation prevents transmission to others. Suspected cases includes those with close contact to an infected person.

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