Need to protect healthcare system is why S'pore reverted to earlier Covid-19 rules: Ong Ye Kung

Mr Ong said the pandemic had been a difficult time for all healthcare workers and he expressed his appreciation for them.
Mr Ong said the pandemic had been a difficult time for all healthcare workers and he expressed his appreciation for them.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore had to move back to phase two (heightened alert) and tighten Covid-19 restrictions to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Mr Ong was addressing attendees in an opening speech at the Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony, which was held virtually on Wednesday (July 28).

He noted that the Jurong Fishery Port cluster had led to new cases of Covid-19 in markets around Singapore.

He said: "There is a risk that it transmits far and wide in our community, especially to seniors who frequent the markets. A quarter of them remain unvaccinated and they are at risk of falling very ill if they are infected with Covid-19."

Mr Ong added that although Covid-19 patients are now occupying only a handful of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, "we have already opened up close to 70 beds, which is double from two weeks ago, and we are preparing to open up more".

Hospitals have also added about 1,000 isolation beds and about 80 per cent were occupied by Covid-19 patients and suspected cases.

Mr Ong said: "The odds of a large surge in cases are stacked against us: We knew that when a cluster grows uncontrollably, infection numbers would double every seven to 10 days, which meant that hospital beds could fill up in a week. Beyond that, we could be overwhelmed."

He added that in many countries around the world, hospitals were overwhelmed with patients, and sick people had to be turned away, with doctors having to choose who lives and dies.

"That is why, in a pandemic like this, we protect our healthcare system robustly. We cannot let a human tragedy like this happen in Singapore," he added.

Mr Ong said the pandemic had been a difficult time for all healthcare workers, and he expressed his appreciation for them.

At the award ceremony, 164 scholarships were awarded to nurture the next generation of talent and leaders in the healthcare sector.

Mr Ong congratulated the scholarship recipients and noted their diversity in backgrounds, education and stages in life.

He said: "It is very important that scholarships are not just for the very young. All of us need to continue to learn throughout our lives and careers, hone our skills and knowledge, and reinvent ourselves from time to time."

The Health Ministry's chief nursing officer Paulin Koh and Second Minister for Health Masagos Zulkifli also congratulated the scholarship recipients at the ceremony.

Mr Masagos said: "Persevere and never lose sight of what made you choose healthcare in the first place."

Ms Tang Li Ern, 19, who received the Healthcare Merit Award, said her mother and sister, who are healthcare workers, had inspired her to seek a career in the industry.

Ms Tang Li Ern received the Healthcare Merit Award at the Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony on July 28, 2021. PHOTO: TANG LI ERN

She said: "They taught me that healthcare is about sacrificing and spreading love, and I want to be able to help people in that way as well."

Ms Tang, who will begin her degree in diagnostic radiography at the Singapore Institute of Technology in September, looks forward to working with other healthcare professionals to assist and provide support for those in need.

She added: "I think helping others is a very valuable and impactful thing to do. It is something that takes time, patience and love."