1. Good afternoon. Since the last MTF press conference two weeks’ ago, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of locally transmitted cases reported daily.
2. Currently, we are almost at 1,600 cases. If the trend continues, the number of cases is likely to double to 3,200 a day by next week, and may even increase after that.
3. We are also keeping a close watch on the number of serious cases.
· Today, the number of serious cases is still manageable.
· However, based on our experience, it takes about a week to 10 days or more for positive cases to show complications.
· If positive cases continue to rise rapidly, we will expect to see the number of serious cases rise also.
· In fact, we are already starting to see a rise in the number of persons requiring oxygen, admission into ICUs and deaths, mostly from cases detected some weeks ago.
4. While we watch the ICU cases, the rapidly increasing number of new cases is putting a serious strain on our hospital resources, despite the shift to community and home care. To ensure our healthcare system can continue to cope with these cases, we will need to take action to slow the rise in cases to protect our hospital system.
5. First, we will make further adjustments to our healthcare protocols so that only those who need hospital care will go to the hospitals. Minister Ong and DMS will elaborate later.
6. We will also tighten some of the safe management measures (SMMs) to slow down the increase in the number of cases.
· This was a difficult decision for us as we know that this would affect many businesses and people.
· While doing so may not reduce the number of daily new infections immediately, it will allow us to slow down the speed of increase and avoid overtaxing our healthcare workers.
· It will also give us time to accelerate the scaling up of our support for home recovery and our community care facilities.
7. Therefore, for one month from 27 September to 25 October:
· Social gatherings will be reduced to no more than two persons;
· The number allowed to dine in at F&B establishments will also be reduced to two, and both have to be vaccinated.
· For hawker centres, the number of persons allowed to dine in will remain at two, regardless of vaccination status.
· Workplace interactions should be minimised, with work-from-home being the default as many transmissions occurred at workplaces.
· We would also like to urge everyone to reduce their social interactions during this period, and for the seniors and vulnerable persons especially, please stay at home if you can.
8. Testing remains key to detecting infections early and minimising the risk of further transmissions.
· The Government had earlier announced that it will be providing eight Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits per employee to companies whose employees are not subject to mandatory Rostered Routine Testing; employees are strongly encouraged to self-test regularly.
· We would also like to urge everyone to make testing a way of life, and self-test before visiting crowded places or visiting those who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly or children.
· There is no need to rush to pharmacies and retail outlets to stock up on ART kits. We have an adequate supply of these kits despite the increased demand in recent days, and we will continue to work with distributors and retailers to ensure that they have sufficient stock.
9. In addition, we will be expanding our vaccine booster programme.
· We started the booster programme on 15 September for seniors aged 60 and above.
· The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has now recommended for persons aged between 50 to 59 years old to also receive boosters so that they too can continue to enjoy high levels of protection against severe illness.
10. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our frontline healthcare workers, who have been working tirelessly over the past 20 months. You have sacrificed your time with your family and loved ones, to keep the rest of us safe and well, especially during this period.
11. I know that many Singaporeans and businesses will be disappointed by today’s announcement. I want to assure you that Singapore remains committed to reopening, and we will continue to work with businesses to implement these measures and prepare for reopening. Singapore will remain connected to the rest of the world, although the journey may take longer so that we can do so safely. I seek your patience and support, while we adjust our response to ride this wave and future waves of infections. Thank you.