While the COVID-19 situation in Singapore is still “under control”, the nation must prepare “for a possible spike” in cases involving the virus, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In a broadcast on Thu evening (12 Mar), Mr Lee said that around 80 per cent of patients tested positive for COVID-19 “only experience mild symptoms”.
“With very large numbers, if it happens, we will not be able to hospitalise and isolate every case like we do now … The ones that are most at risk are the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or lung problems,” he said.
Consequently, said Mr Lee, the “sensible” way to handle a large number of cases will be to “hospitalise only the more serious cases”.
Those who exhibit mild symptoms, he said, should be encouraged “to see their family GP and rest at home” where they should “isolate themselves”.
“This way, we focus resources on the seriously ill, speed up our response time, and hopefully, minimise the number of fatalities,” stressed Mr Lee.
“In the meantime, we are freeing up ICU and hospital beds and facilities, to create additional capacity to meet any surge in COVID-19 numbers. But rest assured, any Singaporean who needs urgent medical care, whether for COVID-19 or other illnesses, will be taken care of,” he assured.
Social distancing measures such as “suspending school, staggering work hours, or compulsory telecommuting”, said Mr Lee, may also be put in place in the event of a spike in cases.
Such measures, he said, will serve as extra “brakes” that will “slow down the transmission of the virus, prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, and help bring the numbers back down”.
“After the situation improves, we can ease off and go back to the baseline precautions.”
Mr Lee, however, assured that the COVID-19 situation on the ground “remains under control” and that Singapore is not entering the Red level of the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON).
“We are not going to DORSCON Red. We are not locking down our city like the Chinese, South Koreans or Italians have done. What we are doing now is to plan ahead for some of these more stringent measures, try them out, and prepare Singaporeans for when we actually need to implement them,” he said.
The prime minister said that the Government has been “open and transparent” in its plans to manage the epidemic.
“When we made direct appeals to Singaporeans, for example, only wear face masks when unwell, or not to worry about our supermarkets running out of food or household items, people accepted our reassurances, and behaviour changed.
“I am grateful that most Singaporeans are responding calmly and responsibly,” he said.