SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be changing its daily reporting of Covid-19 cases, and it would no longer be differentiating between Omicron and non-Omicron cases as total infections are not as important any more, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (Jan 21).
Speaking at the press conference held by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, Mr Ong said that as the Omicron variant has "clearly dominated" the current infection wave, this is a change in case definition and how statistics are compiled.
"In reality, the way we live our life, the way we respond to the disease, nothing has changed, only the statistics and the numbers. So it does not change the actual epidemic situation which we are experiencing.
"Over the past few weeks, we have been living with Covid-19 and the Omicron variant quite carefully and calmly, with a less restricted posture, where we can meet in groups of five... The fact is that with vaccinations working well and the Omicron variant being less severe, the top-line infection number is becoming less and less meaningful in our response to Covid-19," added Mr Ong, who co-chairs the task force.
Mr Ong also pointed out that the top-line infection number comprises mostly people who are vaccinated while experiencing mild or no symptoms, which from a public health standpoint, is not something to be overly concerned about.
He had also discussed this issue with World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week over a Zoom call, said Mr Ong, who noted that it was "well acknowledged" by Dr Tedros and his experts that people have to start to live normally with the disease.
In addition, two sets of figures will be included in the daily statistics. Besides positive cases detected by polymerase chain reaction tests, those who had gone to their GPs with mild symptoms and taken an antigen rapid test (ART) will be counted in a separate set of figures.
Mr Ong noted that when the arrangement had begun on Jan 6, there were around 100 to 200 cases a day that were not counted under the daily Covid-19 figures.
However, with more Omicron cases which are milder in nature, Mr Ong said that more GPs will be ordering Protocol 2 for their patients.
Under the protocol, they will be telling patients who are considered low risk and have only mild symptoms to self-isolate at home for 72 hours. They will be allowed to leave their residence once they test negative with an ART at the end of this time period.
They will also be given a medical certificate for five days, which will give them time for their symptoms to resolve.
Cases under this classification had risen quickly to 400 to 500 cases a day last week, and more than 1,000 cases a day this week. Therefore, these figures will be added to the daily updates on infection numbers for a clearer picture on the epidemic situation in Singapore.