Singapore

Next two weeks crucial in Singapore's virus fight: Experts

As coronavirus clusters and cases with no known connections mushroom here, Singapore is facing the threat of the virus spreading uncontrollably, experts warn.

Whether this potential time bomb is defused is now firmly in the hands of each individual in the country, they stress.

People must decide at this point whether they choose to cooperate and listen to the reminders on personal hygiene, physical distancing and to stay at home unless absolutely necessary; or if they continue to behave irresponsibly, especially in public, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

The next two weeks are crucial in the coronavirus battle. Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, who leads National University of Singapore's infectious diseases programme, said if the number of cases can be held in check, it bodes well for the longer term.

As imported cases wane, the nation is entering a new phase of community transmission, with local cases set to dominate again. This is concerning as it means the virus is becoming more entrenched in the community. In the last three days, the number of local cases has spiked by 15 per cent compared with just a 5 per cent rise in imported cases.

The number of unlinked cases has seen an upward trend in the last few days, with the Health Ministry conducting contact tracing for 93 locally transmitted cases as of yesterday.

Despite the increase, the situation is manageable, and the country's healthcare system has yet to reach breaking point as there is still considerable capacity, the experts said.

The healthcare system will be overwhelmed once demand for intensive care unit (ICU) beds exceeds the number available, noted infectious disease expert Annelies Wilder-Smith, a visiting professor at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

"... what Singapore needs to do, and is in fact already doing, is to increase the number of ICU beds and ventilators," she said.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam noted that if people abused their freedoms now, tougher and more painful measures may be instituted to fight the spread.

Ultimately, this could mean a lockdown, similar to what was imposed in Wuhan and Italy, said Prof Hsu.

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