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Singapore reveals three big concerns as Omicron variant impacts hospitals

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As the Omicron wave hits Singapore, three areas are of concern – the country’s ICU capacity, hospitalisation rates and the impact of the variant on the country’s manpower resources. AFP

Singapore reveals three big concerns as Omicron variant impacts hospitals

As Singapore tackles the Omicron wave, three areas loom large in the Health Ministry’s assessment of the situation, said health minister Ong Ye Kung.

The are areas are the country’s intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, hospitalisation rates and the impact of the highly infectious variant on the country’s manpower resources.

Last weekend, ICU numbers fell slightly from 13 to nine patients, the minister said. Although a couple of Omicron patients required intensive care, none needed to be intubated.

“So we keep our fingers crossed that the ICU situation will remain stable,” said Ong, who was speaking at the opening of the new Outram Community Hospital on January 24.

On hospitalisation, Ong reiterated that about 1.3 per cent of Omicron cases are hospitalised, with 0.3 per cent requiring oxygen supplementation.

Those who requiring additional oxygen generally do not need it for long, with the maximum so far being five days.

“The numbers have been creeping up – both the absolute numbers as well as the percentages,” Ong said. “Every 0.1 per cent occupies a lot more beds, as we all know.”

Lastly, there is the potential impact on manpower.

The authorities have previously warned that many people coming down with the variant at the same time could lead to service disruptions “from time to time”, as people call in sick.

Ong said he is most worried about this, noting that Singapore has changed its protocols so people can now come out of isolation after seven days, rather than 10 days – or even earlier if their conditions allow for it.

“It is not so much that the beds are filling up so fast, but the fact that our manpower is isolated, because of infection or as close contacts,” he added.

He also thanked healthcare workers for their hard work over the past two years, adding: “We have another challenge ahead of us because of the Omicron wave.

“It is a different wave but notwithstanding that, we know that as the wave peaks – and in the coming weeks it will – it will assert pressure again on our healthcare system.”

Meanwhile, Singapore reported 3,002 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on January 24, bringing the total tally to 316,774.

Of the new cases, 1,365 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 1,637 through antigen rapid test (ART), according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 994 were local transmissions and 371 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 1,630 local transmissions and seven imported cases, respectively.

A total of 478 cases are currently warded in hospitals, with 11 cases in intensive care units.

THE STRAITS TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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