Fight against Delta variant is ‘like a war’: Ong Ye Kung

Health minister says Govt is monitoring situation, may have to tighten rules

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has said the Government is monitoring hospital capacity closely and may have to impose more restrictions if the Covid-19 situation worsens.

Singapore already has a suite of measures in place and to go further would be a "last resort", he added in Mandarin in an interview on Tuesday with Lianhe Zaobao published yesterday.

But the Delta variant has still continued to spread quickly.

There were 1,457 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, the highest ever daily record since the pandemic began, and the fourth time in five days the number has exceeded 1,000.

"We had planned to have a preparatory period, during which we can gradually open up while handling perhaps 100 to 200 cases a day. But Delta did not wait for us to be ready and attacked us first," said Mr Ong.

"The fight against Delta is really like a war... and it can spring surprises which you never expected, so you have to be able to adapt and change strategies quickly."

He added that two factors are crucial in deciding if Singapore has reached a critical stage - the number of serious cases and hospital capacity. The Government has been keeping a close watch on both indicators to ensure intensive care units and the healthcare system in general are not overwhelmed.

"If this does not work, then we will have to explain to people frankly about the need for tighter restrictions," said Mr Ong, one of three co-chairs of the multi-ministry task force.

Mr Ong said that as at last week, things were still under control, but the situation changes daily. He also noted a new balance had to be struck and people would have to learn how to coexist with Covid-19.

It is no longer possible and also futile to go into protracted lockdowns, he said, noting that infection numbers will go up again once lockdowns are lifted.

This does not mean Singapore should lift all restrictions and open up to the extent that countries like Britain and the US had.

"What we need to do is to take the middle road, and everyone needs to adjust so that we can coexist with the virus and find a new balance," he said.

He said there was a difference between co-existing with Covid-19 and treating it as an endemic disease like influenza.

There are too many unknowns with Covid-19, which is also more lethal, he said, citing Professor Leo Yee Sin, the executive director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, who had said it is too early to tell if it will become a disease like the flu.

The minister also acknowledged that it was impossible for people to stay home all the time, but advised them to pay attention to personal hygiene when out, in particular the elderly.

"Wear a mask, don't pull it down to talk to your friends. Try not to touch too many things and don't rub your eyes or pick your nose," he said.