SINGAPORE - More vaccinated people who have Covid-19 - but with no or mild symptoms - will be admitted directly to community care facilities instead of going first to hospitals, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Fully vaccinated people with Covid-19 are also being discharged after 14 days - instead of 21 days - with leave of absence of seven days, he said. This is so long as their tests show that they are Covid-19 negative or have very low viral loads.
The duration is being further reviewed, to see if they can be discharged even earlier, the minister said in Parliament on Monday (July 26).
"As we learn to live with Covid-19, our healthcare protocols must be remodelled. If Covid-19 is indeed endemic, having 200 or more cases a day may not be an unusual thing at all," Mr Ong said in the first of three ministerial statements delivered by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19.
Apart from questions on the KTV and Jurong Fishery Port clusters, he answered those from various MPs on Singapore's Covid-19 vaccination programme and its plans to transition to living with Covid-19.
On those infected going straight to community care facilities, he said this was already the practice for those aged between 17 and 45. The group was expanded last week to include those up to the age of 59.
With the change, up to 60 per cent of infected cases are now expected to recover in community care facilities such as D'Resort in Pasir Ris and Civil Service Club @ Loyang, instead of in acute care hospitals, he said.
Meanwhile, the Government will plan for the next step, where perhaps 80 per cent can be admitted to community care facilities and some can even recover at home, Mr Ong said.
As part of the new normal, there is also greater use of home quarantine, he added.
Those who are fully vaccinated can now serve their quarantine at home instead of at a government facility, provided that their home is suitable for isolation.
Mr Ong said: "We expect up to 40 per cent of persons under quarantine can serve their quarantine at home, and this will go beyond 50 per cent in the coming few weeks as more people are vaccinated."
These concessions for fully vaccinated people will limit the disruption of Covid-19 to their lives, as well as ensure that the healthcare system here will not be overwhelmed so that many other patients who are sicker will continue to have access to hospital beds, he added.
The moves are possible because it is now clear that those who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to become critically ill when infected.
Mr Ong stressed: "If we want to live with Covid as an endemic disease, we cannot carry on with the current healthcare protocols for Covid-19. They need to shift closer to how we treat influenza today, without extensive contact tracing and quarantine in dedicated facilities, and hospitalising only those who are very ill."
He added, though, that this can happen only if the likelihood of developing very serious or life-threatening disease as a result of Covid-19 infection has been significantly reduced by effective vaccination of the population, especially among the vulnerable groups.