SINGAPORE - Omicron cases from Monday (Dec 27) will be allowed to recover under the home recovery programme, or be managed at community care facilities and hospitals, instead of being isolated at dedicated facilities.
Those who are unwell will be processed based on both their clinical presentation - symptoms and physical signs - and underlying risk factors, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced late on Sunday.
They would follow a time-based discharge of 10 days for vaccinated individuals and children less than 12 years old, or 14 days for unvaccinated individuals.
The move will bring Omicron cases in line with the health protocols applied to people with other current variants of Covid-19.
In its statement, MOH also said individuals who are well but test positive for the Omicron variant will continue to self-test and self-manage, including using antigen rapid tests (ART) to discharge from the third day onwards.
Close contacts of Omicron cases will be issued a seven-day health risk warning, where they will be required to self-test with ART daily before leaving their homes.
This is instead of being quarantined at dedicated facilities for 10 days. Those currently in quarantine will be progressively discharged over the next few days.
MOH said that in order to tightly ring-fence vulnerable settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, eldercare homes and pre-schools, contact tracing efforts will shift back towards self-reporting by family members and the use of tools such as TraceTogether.
The change in how Omicron cases are handled comes as the MOH eases its approach to managing the virus spread based on an “updated understanding” of the Omicron variant.
“International evidence indicates that the Omicron variant is likely to be more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant, and that vaccines, especially boosters, retain substantial protection against hospitalisations caused by Omicron,” said the ministry.
Noting that there were several unlinked Omicron cases as well as clusters in the community in the past week, it added: “This was not unexpected, given the high transmissibility of the variant.”
MOH also said that the adjustments announced on Sunday will help focus resources on severe cases.
"The adjustments in our approach for managing local Omicron cases will allow us to focus our healthcare resources on severe cases and protecting vulnerable settings," said MOH.
"It also allows us to go back to having a single streamlined approach to manage Covid-19, regardless of Covid-19 viral strains, which will facilitate operations on the ground and compliance with protocols."
As at Dec 25, MOH has detected 546 confirmed Omicron cases, comprising 443 imported cases and 103 local ones.
In the past week, there were 13 unlinked community Omicron cases and 78 Omicron cases from locally linked community transmission.
MOH said that available data thus far suggests that Omicron infections face reduced risks of hospitalisation and severe disease compared with Delta infections.
“Locally, our Omicron cases have so far not been severe as well – none has required intensive care or oxygen supplementation, although this may be partially due to most cases being fully vaccinated, and from younger age groups,” MOH added.
An Omicron wave is likely to hit the Republic in the next one to two months, given the transmissibility of the variant and the open nature of Singapore.
“In the coming days and weeks, we should expect more community cases, and rapid doubling of cases.
“This is again a process we need to go through, in order to live with Covid-19,” MOH said, adding that it is inevitable that Omicron will spread in the community as it has in more than 100 countries already.
“We have done whatever we can to prepare ourselves for it, especially in administering boosters to our population and starting vaccinations for our children,” it added.