SINGAPORE - Singapore society is becoming more resilient to Covid-19, with increasing human activity not resulting in more infections and hospitalisations.
The number of unvaccinated senior citizens falling ill from the virus has also dipped, largely due to outreach efforts and measures compelling them to ultimately get jabbed.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung made these points on Saturday (Nov 20) as he identified key indicators showing Singapore's improved pandemic situation, and which also helped decide next steps at the end of a phase of stricter curbs.
He was speaking at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, where it was announced that curbs on dining in and social gatherings were to be relaxed after nearly two months.
Mr Ong first noted that the number of Covid-19 patients in Singapore's healthcare system, with most of them on the home recovery programme, has dipped in recent weeks.
It stayed consistently above 20,000 throughout October and peaked at 26,386 on Oct 29, but has been falling since - to below 20,000 on Nov 7 and now, slightly over 15,000.
About 3,000 patients, also mostly on home recovery, continue to be discharged every day, said Mr Ong.
Second, the reproduction value, or R, has held at around 0.9 to one despite a noticeable increase in footfall throughout Singapore over the past few weeks, he added.
R is the estimated average number of people that one positive Covid-19 patient can infect.
"More and more people are coming out socialising and they are out and about," said Mr Ong, noting that footfall across popular destinations was 5 per cent less than in early September, when groups of five were allowed to dine at eateries.
"This is a good sign. It means that more human activity did not drive infections and hospitalisations up," he said. "What it means is this: that our society is becoming more resilient to the virus."
The third factor cited by Mr Ong was a falling incidence of severe illnesses.
At the peak of Singapore's current surge in cases - its worst since the start of the pandemic, although numbers have waned recently - the average number of patients hospitalised and needing oxygen supplementation or intensive care unit (ICU) attention was about 420.
This has since fallen to around 370.
From August to October, the number of patients falling severely ill, needing ICU care or dying also dropped from 12 per 1,000 infected individuals to five per 1,000.
"If we track beyond October to have a November number, I think very likely it will go even below five," said Mr Ong. "This is significant. It means that every time you get 1,000 people infected, you can now count on the fact that a fewer number will fall severely ill, need ICU care or die compared to, say, in August or September."
He said that the increased uptake of vaccine boosters had contributed to this, with booster shots helping seniors to be less likely to fall severely ill even if infected.
"More importantly... fewer unvaccinated seniors are now getting infected," Mr Ong added.
These individuals make up 1 per cent of the total population and 6 per cent of all seniors, but two-thirds of the ICU population.
He revealed that on Oct 19 - "a bad day" - 119 unvaccinated seniors had registered as infected, with many ending up in ICU or dying.
In the past week, the daily number of infected, unvaccinated seniors has fallen to less than 40.
This, in turn, could be attributed to a shrinking population of unvaccinated seniors, as Singapore's vaccination teams continue to reach out to them even in their homes.
The number of unvaccinated people aged above 60 has dropped from 65,000 at the end of October to slightly over 59,000 as at Saturday.
"So 5,000 more became fully vaccinated in a matter of two weeks, and many lives were saved as a result," said Mr Ong.
He also credited the Government's vaccination-differentiated safe management measures such as restricting unvaccinated seniors' access to crowded places like hawker centres, and thus reducing their exposure to the virus.
"In order to resume their activities, many of them chose to walk into our vaccination centres and get themselves vaccinated, which is a very good thing," Mr Ong added.