Singapore’s healthcare system is at risk of being “overwhelmed” by surging coronavirus infections, government officials warned on Wednesday, a day after the city-state extended non-quarantine travel as it changes its approach to deal with the pandemic.
The health ministry on Wednesday reported 18 deaths – Singapore’s highest toll in a single day – and 3,862 more cases, slightly less than the record 3,994 recorded the day before.
“In the current situation, we face a considerable risk of the health care system being overwhelmed,” Lawrence Wong, co-chair of a government task force to fight Covid-19, said before the release of the new figures.
Wong, who is also finance minister, said nearly 90 percent of isolation beds in hospitals were occupied and more than two-thirds of beds in intensive care units were occupied.
His comments come a day after the city-state extended its non-quarantine travel to fully vaccinated passengers from eight countries, including major trading partners the United States, Britain and France.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the global business center cannot remain closed indefinitely, and the city-state has moved from a zero-tolerance strategy with closures and closed borders to an approach of live with Covid-19.
Analysts said the travel routes program, which began with Brunei and Germany last month, could provide a boost to the tourism and airline industries hit by the pandemic. But it has nonetheless raised fears among some ordinary Singaporeans as the city grapples with its latest outbreak.
Most of Singapore’s cases are mild or asymptomatic, with patients recovering at home, allowing hospitals to focus on critically ill Covid patients.
“We’re trying to increase the capacity, but it’s not just about having extra beds or buying new equipment because… our medical staff are overworked and tired,” Wong said.
“And while we try to strengthen the team, it will take time for these reinforcements to arrive. “
The task force’s co-leader and Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung said the number of infections among unvaccinated people aged 60 and over “continues to be high”, accounting for two-thirds of intensive care patients and those who have died.
Singapore has reported more than 158,000 coronavirus cases and 264 deaths.
The recent spike in infections after some restrictions were eased prompted Singapore to suspend reopening.
The city-state extended its social restrictions on Wednesday to contain the spread of Covid-19 for about a month in order to ease the pressure on the health system.
More than 80% of the total population of Singapore has been vaccinated against the virus.
Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report.