The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) announced on Feb. 16 changes to healthcare protocols.
Protocol 2 to apply to More Patient Groups
Currently, patients aged five to 69 years old, and non-fully vaccinated patients aged five to 49 years old are managed by their primary care doctors under Protocol 2, which covers lower-risk individuals with mild symptoms.
From Feb. 16, regardless of vaccination status, all patients aged three to 69 years old and fully vaccinated patients aged 70 to 79. years old can be managed by their primary care doctors under Protocol 2.
Patients falling outside of the age brackets will continue to be managed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) through the Home Recovery Programme or at a care facility such as a Covid-19 Treatment Facility (CTF) or the hospital.
This is to ensure the healthcare capacity is preserved for those who require acute care.
Individuals under Protocol 2 with non-emergency conditions are strongly advised to avoid seeking treatment at the emergency department of hospitals and consult their primary care doctors or telemedicine providers should they require any medical assistance.
Changes to Protocol 3 for Close Contacts
From Feb. 18, there will be two key changes to Protocol 3.
First, the Health Risk Warning (HRW) for close contacts identified by MOH under Protocol 3 will be called Health Risk Notice. This, said MOH, changes Protocol 3 from an order to an advisory.
The MTF said that the HRW was meant for managing a virus with a longer incubation period. With a variant having a shorter incubation period, this tool is now less relevant and less fit-for-purpose.
Health minister Ong Ye Kung also said that unlike the HRW, the HRN is not backed by legislation. So the public has to exercise more self-responsibility.
Second, the recommended self-monitoring period will be reduced from seven days to five days as individuals infected with the Omicron variant have been shown to have a shorter incubation period.
Regardless of whether one receives a HRN from MOH, all persons who are aware of their recent exposure to a case should be socially responsible and follow Protocol 3, said the ministry.
MOH advised the public to moderate their social activities, monitor their health and self-test with an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kit before leaving the house, especially if they are going to crowded places or are coming into contact with vulnerable individuals.
Persons issued with the new HRN can continue to obtain their ART kits through designated vending machines, to facilitate their self-testing during the monitoring period.
For the healthcare, eldercare, and preschool sectors, additional requirements may be put in place for close contacts to protect the vulnerable individuals in these settings.
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Top photo via Mufid Majnun/Unsplash and Gov.sg