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Singapore's Covid-19 strategy may stretch outbreak but will preserve healthcare capacity: Gan Kim Yong
SINGAPORE'S strategy to flatten the curve when it comes to controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus may stretch the pandemic over a longer period of time, but it would help to preserve the Republic's healthcare capacity to care for more severe cases, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Gan, who also co-chairs the multi-ministry task force set up to deal with the coronavirus, said the number of cases could shoot up if nothing is done, like what is happening in several cities recently.
The strategy to build herd immunity, as mooted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson when the United Kingdom first saw a spike in the number of cases but was later abandoned, has two risks.
Mr Gan said an uncontrolled spike in the number of cases in a short period of time will overwhelm the healthcare system, easily resulting in high mortality rates, while the second risk is that it is not certain yet that this immunity will be effective or sustained.
"The alternative is to introduce stringent safe distancing and other measures to slow down the infection rate. The number will still grow but if we do it right, we will end up with a lower peak," Mr Gan said.
To achieve this, Mr Gan said the government is strengthening its efforts to detect cases early to initiate the contact tracing process as soon as possible to reduce the risk of the infection spreading.
In preparation for the expected surge in cases in the coming weeks, Mr Gan said the government has expanded its contact tracing capacity, from three teams in the beginning to 20 teams today, thanks to manpower support from public service agencies, including the Singapore Armed Forces.
"We can trace up to 4,000 contacts each day, and will continue to scale up our contact tracing capacity as needed," Mr Gan said.
Mr Gan also gave the House an update on the task force's efforts to contain the outbreak.
To date, the authorities have conducted 39,000 tests for Covid-19, translating to 6,800 tests per million in Singapore, Mr Gan said. THis compares with around 6,500 in South Korea and 1,000 in Taiwan.
Singapore currently has 558 confirmed cases, of which two have died and 155 have been discharged.
Mr Gan said while the first wave of cases came from China, the second wave now are imported cases mainly from the UK, the US and Indonesia.
He cautioned that over the coming weeks, the number of cases will continue to rise, as more Singaporeans return home, adding that there are currently 200,000 Singaporeans who are overseas.