It has not taken long for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus – which has been detected in over 60 countries, mainly in Africa and Europe – to become the new global face of the pandemic and make its way to Singapore. There have been 16 cases picked up here already – primarily imported cases. Given that evidence suggests that Omicron has a higher transmissibility rate than variants that are circulating currently, and even though community transmissions have not been detected here, it is essential to be prepared for any eventuality. A slew of measures announced yesterday is aimed precisely at planning for an upsurge in cases – but without panicking.
The Government has acted with due speed in the awareness that the variant could result in a bigger wave of Covid-19 cases than the one caused by the Delta variant. Key elements of Singapore’s response are the plans to increase intensive care unit (ICU) capacity to 500 beds, and to study whether infrastructure upgrading needs to be carried out in public hospitals to support this. ICU beds lie at the heart of the many layers of medical care available to the sick. Any possibility of ICU capacity being overwhelmed needs to be planned for. Other parts of the healthcare system, too, need to be prepared to deal with a possible upsurge. Hence the emphasis on having contingency plans to also ramp up hospital and Covid-19 Treatment Facility capacities, in addition to the plans for ICUs. Singaporeans know how successive, and swift changes to health, social interaction and travel protocols have enabled the country to weather a crisis that has waxed and waned for the better part of two years.