Singapore

Healthcare system, workers under tremendous pressure: Wong

Singapore's healthcare system is under tremendous pressure, and the latest Covid-19 restrictions are needed to stabilise the situation and prevent avoidable deaths, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

These measures, which aim to slow the pace at which cases are rising, will give Singapore time to build up its healthcare capacity - including facilities outside hospitals - so that it can cope with 5,000 or more cases a day.

"We want to keep our healthcare system intact and under control. We want to avoid unnecessary deaths that may arise when the entire healthcare system gets overwhelmed," he told Bloomberg Television in an interview.

"We felt that we had to do it because our healthcare system and our healthcare workers are truly facing tremendous pressures and stresses during this latest wave of cases."

The latest restrictions on social gatherings kicked in yesterday - one day after Singapore reported nearly 2,000 new cases - and are set to last a month.

In his interview, Mr Wong broke down how the surge in cases could stress Singapore's hospital system, even if only 0.2 per cent of patients end up requiring intensive care.

In order to ensure this small group receives timely care, hospitals need to admit about 10 per cent of infected patients for closer monitoring. These include people who are older, have multiple health conditions or have more serious Covid-19 symptoms.

"If you have 5,000 cases a day, 10 per cent (of that) is 500, and each person stays at least a week in the hospital," Mr Wong said. "That is a lot of hospital beds."

In the interview, Bloomberg's Ms Haslinda Amin suggested there is a sense that Singapore's leadership holds conflicting views over how the country should handle its reopening.

DECISION

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, responded that the latest decision to tighten restrictions was made collectively.

"We did not make it lightly," he said. "When we looked at the data and the evidence together with our medical experts, we just felt that there was a huge risk of the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed, and we have to protect the healthcare system. And that is why we made the decision we did."

Would doing so impact the people's trust in the Government? Mr Wong replied that he and his colleagues do not take this trust lightly.

In this situation, they had no choice but to tighten measures, he added. "We seek everyone's understanding, support and forbearance, and we hope everyone can rise in solidarity with our healthcare workers who are facing a lot of pressures - working flat out in recent weeks to deal with the huge surge in cases."

coronavirus