SINGAPORE - The time taken for the number of Covid-19 community cases in Singapore to double has slowed, though the large daily numbers continue to place a significant strain on the nation's healthcare system.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in an update on Friday (Oct 8) that the doubling time has slowed from six to eight days three weeks ago to about 10 to 12 days now.
Some 98.4 per cent of Covid-19 patients continue to be asymptomatic or report mild symptoms. Only 1.3 per cent of patients require oxygen supplementation in a hospital and 0.1 per cent require intensive care unit (ICU) care, MOH said in its press release.
Currently, around 7 per cent of patients are admitted into hospitals because of more severe symptoms or pre-existing medical risks that require close observation.
About 20 per cent of hospital beds in acute and community public hospitals are taken up by Covid-19 patients.
ICU beds are disproportionately occupied by seniors 60 years and older who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. They represent 1.5 per cent of our total population, but currently account for two-thirds of the patients requiring ICU care. The occupancy of critically ill cases in the ICU was 23.5 per cent on Thursday, MOH said.
The occupancy for isolation beds has risen from 62 per cent in July 2021 to 85 per cent for October 2021.
Over the past three months, the number of patients seeking medical attention at the emergency departments after testing positive for the virus has increased by eight times. Many of them were admitted, mostly for precautionary observation, MOH said.
The number of Covid-19 beds has increased from 900 to 2,500 over the last three months. Of these, about 170 are ICU beds, and another 100 can be stood up to handle ICU cases at short notice.
At the same time, hospitals have been asked to prioritise resources for Covid-19 patients by reducing less urgent surgery and appointments.
The hospitals have thus cut down on non-urgent and non-life-threatening care, deferring about 20 per cent of their total regular load, to alleviate the pressure on capacity and manpower.
Public healthcare institutions and private healthcare providers have redeployed existing staff and recruited additional short-term manpower to ramp up beds.
MOH is also bringing in more manpower by reaching out to individuals registered with the Singapore Healthcare Corps, including both healthcare professionals and laypersons.
MOH has also approached nurses who are registered with the Singapore Nursing Board but who are currently not in active practice.
The response has been encouraging, MOH said. About 900 individuals of all ages have stepped forward.
"We are progressively referring them to public hospitals to match them with suitable roles, based on the institution's needs and the individual's experience and availability," MOH said.
More than 83 per cent of the population in Singapore are fully vaccinated, with more than 98 per cent of infected individuals recovering with no or mild symptoms.
As a result, the Home Recovery Programme (HRP) has become the default care management protocol for many patients.
However, the continuing rise in cases will most likely mean a correspondingly growing number of infected persons, especially among the vulnerable elderly who will need some level of hospital or
community treatment facility (CTF) care.
MOH has since put in place five CTFs over the past two weeks - Bright Vision Hospital, NTUC Health Nursing Home (Tampines), Connect @ Changi, Oasia Hotel @ Novena and part of Yishun Community Hospital.
Together, the five CTFs currently have more than 1,200 beds. Private operators have been commissioned to run some of the CTFs or ramp up their existing infrastructure to be CTFs.
MOH is on track to add 2,500 more beds by the end of the month, bringing the total CTF capacity to 3,700 beds.
"We strongly urge those who have non-emergency conditions to avoid seeking treatment at the hospitals and to consult their own family doctor or general practitioner instead," MOH said.
Those who are asymptomatic but are concerned they may be infected with Covid-19 can perform their own antigen rapid test (ART), and self-isolate for 72 hours if their ART result is positive.
This allows those with more severe illnesses and who are in need of emergency care to be attended to quickly and helps to preserve hospital capacity for those who truly need acute hospital care, said MOH.