Visits to residential care homes in S'pore suspended till Oct 11 amid spike in Covid-19 cases

The suspension till Oct 11 will buy time to encourage more unvaccinated seniors to get vaccinated.
The suspension till Oct 11 will buy time to encourage more unvaccinated seniors to get vaccinated.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - All in-person visits to residential care homes will be suspended for a month from Monday (Sept 13), as an additional measure to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in these places, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday.

This comes after an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases was detected recently among staff, clients and residents of aged-care facilities. 

The ministry said the suspension till Oct 11 will buy time to encourage more unvaccinated seniors to get vaccinated, as well as roll out the vaccine booster programme for these residents.

"We will also be strengthening the testing regime for both staff and residents/clients of aged-care facilities, and will use antigen rapid tests more frequently to complement the current surveillance testing in these settings," said MOH.

In a statement, MOH said there were 42 cases across 18 aged-care facilities or providers in the last two weeks.

"With the number of cases expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks, we need to take further action to protect the vulnerable seniors in these settings," said MOH, adding that it will observe the situation in the coming weeks and review the suspension of visitation accordingly.

The multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 said on Friday that seniors aged 60 years and above and residents of aged-care facilities will be invited to sign up for their third jab of a Covid-19 vaccine from Tuesday. 

With the daily number of reported Covid-19 cases on the rise in recent weeks, driven largely by the highly contagious Delta variant, the task force has warned that the daily figure may exceed 1,000 a day. 

The number of daily cases rose to 288 cases per day in the past week from an average of 76 cases per day a fortnight ago. 

To slow down Covid-19 transmission, the authorities have asked Singapore residents to reduce non-essential social activities over the next two weeks.

MOH on Sunday urged the next of kin of unvaccinated seniors in aged-care facilities to support and encourage their loved ones to be vaccinated. 

“Unvaccinated seniors may suffer severe illness if infected. It is also important for vaccinated seniors to receive the booster vaccination when it is made available, to ensure a continued high level of immunity and protection from severe disease,” it said. 

Madam Low Mui Lang, Peacehaven Nursing Home’s executive director, believes family members of residents would be understanding of the suspension, since this is not the first time such a measure was implemented. 

Physical visits to residential care homes serving the elderly were suspended for about two weeks in June during a period of heightened alert.
About 10 per cent of the close to 400 residents at Peacehaven have yet to be vaccinated, said Madam Low. 

“We feel that residents’ safety should come first. Virtual visits such as through Skype or ordering food through GrabFood can still continue,” she said.