Singapore can expect an infection wave due to Omicron “several times larger” than the one caused by Delta, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Monday as he cited the latest variant’s higher transmissibility.
Responding to a query from a Member of Parliament, the minister said that cases are likely to double every two to three days.
Singapore can expect an infection wave “several times larger” than the one caused by Delta, said Ong, citing the Omicron variant’s higher transmissibility.
“If Delta infections reached a sustained incidence of about 3,000 cases a day, Omicron could perhaps reach 10,000 to 15,000 cases a day, or more.”
“So once cases start to rise steeply, within a couple of weeks, we may see 3,000 Omicron cases a day,” the minister said.
Ong also pointed to global studies that have shown that the Omicron variant causes less severe illness than Delta, with fewer cases being admitted to hospital or requiring emergency care.
“This has also been borne out by our own experience. In Singapore, we have recorded 4,322 Omicron infections so far, including 308 seniors aged 60 and above.”
“Eight needed oxygen supplementation and all of them have been taken off oxygen after a short few days. None required ICU care as yet,” he said.
If these infections had instead been caused by Delta, authorities would expect 50 to 60 patients needing oxygen supplementation, ICU care or to die, he said.
But Ong cautioned that Singapore must be careful in interpreting these observations, as “it is early days and the circumstances of each country are different”.
Meanwhile, the current COVID-19 safe measures will only be tightened as a “last resort” when Singapore’s healthcare system is under heavy strain, Ong said.
“It is the (multi-ministry task force’s) hope that we can ride through the Omicron wave with the current safe management measures.
“If we have to tighten the restrictions, it will be as a last resort when our healthcare system is under severe pressure,” he said, in response to questions on whether stricter rules will be put in place.
Citing Singapore’s experience with the Delta wave last year, Ong said that even after it subsided, authorities had refrained from “being too jubilant” and over-relaxing restrictions.
“That would have been a mistake,” he said.
Meanwhile, Singapore reported 845 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 587 imported infections.
There was one fatality, taking the country’s death toll from coronavirus complications to 838.
The MOH separately reported 327 new Omicron infections, comprising 218 imported cases and 109 local cases.
As of Sunday, Singapore has recorded 285,647 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
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