Depending on how the situation in Singapore develops, Singapore may no longer stick to its current approach of hospitalising all Covid-19 cases.
Instead, some might be housed in alternative facilities, such as existing long-term care facilities or the current quarantine facilities.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said this at a press conference on Mar. 18, where he responded to a question asking if Singapore would consider a change in its approach towards Covid-19 patients.
Current strategy: all patients hospitalised
Gan said that thus far, all confirmed patients have been hospitalised and would only be discharged after they tested negative twice consecutively, within two days.
He said that while 80 per cent of the people hospitalised required minimal health support, they are kept in hospitals for several reasons.
They are kept there for observation so as to better understand the virus and the disease, which is new to us.
Another reason is for isolation purposes, to "keep them from spreading further in the community".
"Many different ways to change our measures" as situation develops
When asked about the current capacity of Singapore's healthcare system, Gan stressed that there is "sufficient flexibility and buffer to allow us to manage the expected number of cases", though he added that "we should never be complacent".
However, there are "many different ways to change our measures".
Cases which required less support could potentially be housed in alternative facilities, instead of being hospitalised, Gan said.
He cited the possibility of converting existing long-term care facilities for milder cases, which could be converted with "sufficient safeguards", as these were medical facilities.
Another possibility he raised would be converting some of the quarantine facilities into care facilities for milder cases. He explained that there would be arrangements for patients to be sent directly to nearby hospitals, if required.
Gan said that such modifications to the current measures were currently being arranged as "part and parcel of our plan", and would be activated depending on how the situation develops.
Expect higher numbers: "not impossible" for daily cases to cross 100
47 new cases of Covid-19 infection were announced at the press conference on Mar. 18 – the highest number of cases in a single day so far.
There are now 313 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Singapore.
Gan also said that it was "not impossible" that the number of new cases in a day would cross a hundred, and that "we must be prepared for that".
He added that while 47 was the highest single-day number so far, "we must expect it to go up".
He explained that many Singapore residents have recently returned to Singapore from overseas, and some would be in the incubation phase of the virus infection.
Gan also said that it was "too early to tell" when the Covid-19 situation would begin to subside.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong added that this was, after all, a new virus.
Wong also said that statistics from Europe and the U.S. thus far indicated that the Covid-19 infection had not yet peaked, and that the situation there was expected to worsen in the coming weeks, as there would still be inflows of visitors to Singapore and Singaporeans returning home.
PM Lee's previous remarks
PM Lee had explained previously that if the virus becomes widespread, the approach of containment would shift to one of mitigation, where the authorities would “encourage those who only have mild symptoms to see their family GP and rest at home instead of going to the hospital”.
This was already a reality in some parts of South Korea, where hundreds of confirmed Covid-19 patients waited at home for hospital beds to become available.
Such an arrangement allows hospitals and healthcare workers to allocate limited resources for the most vulnerable confirmed patients — the elderly, and those with preexisting medical issues.
Top image by Lauren Choo and via Google Maps.