S'pore taking unique Covid-19 'middle-of-the-road approach', not 'flip-flop': Ong Ye Kung

Singapore is opening up progressively with widespread vaccination, and avoiding a sudden lifting of all restrictions.

Belmont Lay | October 18, 2021, 05:58 PM

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore's method of dealing with Covid-19 is a "middle-of-the-road approach" and not a "flip-flop", and it has helped avert the high death toll seen in many other countries.

His comments were made during his opening address at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Asia Pacific Conference on Monday morning, Oct. 18.

Ong said:

"The path Singapore has chosen is unique in the world – we did not take a purist ‘zero Covid’ or ‘living with Covid’ approach. We adopted an eradication strategy when our population was vulnerable, mainly last year and earlier part of this year. After vaccines have given us a protective shield, we are opening up progressively, and avoiding a sudden lifting of all restrictions. Some may feel that this middle-of-the-road approach is perhaps unclear, and may even appear to be a ‘flip-flop’. But it has helped us avert the massive deaths that many countries have suffered. It is the correct approach for Singapore, and day by day, we are moving closer to the light at the end of tunnel."

Averted overwhelming system

The health minister, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force (MTF) on Covid-19, also said Singapore has averted overwhelming its hospitals due to the "strict controls throughout the large parts of the past 20 months".

He said this was needed for Singapore, as he alluded to the move to an endemic stage: "With the great majority of our population now fully vaccinated, the disease is no longer life threatening for the vast majority of us, and we will have to start transiting to living with Covid-19 and restoring our normal lives."

Singapore redeploying manpower

However, Ong acknowledged that infection numbers and fatalities have gone up recently and offered his condolences, but called for continued support for healthcare workers who hold the fort at the last line of defence in clinics and hospitals.

He added that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is mobilising more manpower resources, such as from PCR (polymerase chain reaction) swab operations, which Singapore is doing less of.

He said: "We have 1,600 trained volunteers who have stepped forward to help, and we have deployed them."

The rest of his speech dealt with the importance of digital technology and its disruption in healthcare.

You can read his full speech here.

Top photo via Ong Ye Kung Facebook