SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore said on Friday it will tighten COVID-19 curbs to limit social gatherings to two people and make working from home a default, in a bid to contain a spike in infections and reduce pressure on the healthcare system.
Despite a rapid vaccination drive, the city-state has been seeing more than 1,000 daily cases this week, including 1,504 on Thursday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
In a statement on Friday, the health ministry said: “many COVID positive individuals with mild symptoms are seeking medical attention at our hospitals when it might not be necessary.”
With 82% of the population fully vaccinated, about 98% of the coronavirus cases in the past four weeks had no or mild symptoms, it said in a report a day earlier.
Singapore ministers told a media briefing on Friday that the jump in COVID-19 cases in the island of 5.7 million people had put “tremendous” pressure on its healthcare system.
The latest curbs come into force on Monday and will run until Oct. 24.
Gan Kim Yong, trade minister and co-chair of the government’s coronavirus taskforce, said it had been a “very difficult decision” to tighten curbs again due to the impact on businesses and people.
But he told the briefing “it will allow us to slow down the speed of increase (in infections) and avoid overtaxing our healthcare workers.”
Health officials said infections had been doubling every eight days, and without new measures could jump to 6,000 a day in a couple of weeks.
For mild COVID-19 cases, authorities are also trying to put in place arrangements for more people to recover at home and to scale up isolation facilities.
Singapore’s attempt to encourage more COVID-19 patients to stay at home caused some confusion this week, with a hotline overwhelmed by calls.To further protect its population, the Southeast Asia country is also expanding its booster vaccine shot programme to cover those aged 50 to 59 years from early October.
(Reporting by Chen Lin in Singapore; Editing by Ed Davies)