Do not see a doctor if you have mild symptoms: Healthcare under severe strain as 26,032 new Covid-19 cases break record

The previous highest number of cases recorded was 19,420 on Feb 15, 2022.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday night (Feb 22) reiterated its call for the public to refrain from rushing to hospitals with non-emergency conditions, as Singapore saw a record high of 26,032 Covid-19 cases.

To help spread out patient load at private clinics, the operating hours of Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) will be extended from Feb 25 to March 10.

Selected clinics will operate up to 11pm on weekday nights, and on weekend afternoons from 2pm to 5pm, and on weekend nights up to 11pm. Selected polyclinics will operate on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.

The list of clinics providing these time-limited extended hours can be found on flu.gowhere.gov.sg

Said the ministry: "Hospitals, polyclinics and general practitioner (GP) clinics are very busy, and healthcare workers are under severe pressure. It may take a few weeks before the transmission wave peaks and subsides."

The previous highest number of cases recorded was 19,420 on Feb 15.

While the number of patients needing oxygen supplementation and intensive care unit (ICU) care is not high, there has been a surge in demand for hospital beds, mostly for patients with underlying chronic illnesses to recover, said MOH.

To support healthcare providers, capacity in hospitals has been ramped up and patients placed at Covid-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs) as much as possible. Patients are also being spread to private hospitals, and Covid-19 patients in nursing homes can recover at the homes.

The SG Healthcare Corps as well as Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) medics are also chipping in, and health protocols have been adjusted to allow more patients to be able to recover at home.

MOH added that many patients have been going to hospitals, polyclinics and GP clinics with no or mild symptoms to get an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) conducted by a medical professional and documented in MOH's records. They also asked for medical certificates. "This has added significant workload to our healthcare providers who are already under significant pressure and stress."

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The ministry urged individuals not to rush to a hospital emergency department unless they are experiencing an emergency. Patients who walk in with non-emergency conditions may be diverted elsewhere so as to prioritise resources for those who need the medical care.

Said MOH: "We seek everyone's continued effort and cooperation to do our part to preserve our medical resources for those who need them most."

From Feb 26, the Combined Test Centres (CTCs) will provide access to government-funded telemedicine consultations for symptomatic members of the public who go to CTCs for testing during the weekends.

There were a total of 1,608 Covid-19 cases in hospital on Tuesday, up from the 1,606 on Monday.

With the latest update, hospitalisation numbers have exceeded the 1,000 mark for 18 days in a row.

There were 46 cases in the intensive care unit, up from 44 on Monday. A total of 190 patients required oxygen support.

Four deaths were reported on Tuesday as well.

Of the local cases, 22,635 were detected through antigen rapid tests (ART), which means the patients displayed no symptoms or their symptoms were mild. Another 3,096 cases were detected through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

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There were 301 new imported cases, with 231 detected through PCR tests and 70 through ART.

The weekly Covid-19 infection growth rate stood at 1.57, down from 1.62 the day before. The rate refers to the ratio of community cases for the past week, over the week before. A rate of more than one shows that the number of new weekly Covid-19 cases is increasing.

As at Tuesday, Singapore has recorded a total of 622,293 Covid-19 cases, with 956 deaths. About 94 per cent of the eligible population has completed the full vaccination regimen, and 66 per cent has received the vaccine booster shot.

The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination (EC19V) recommends that people who tested positive for Covid-19 with mild or no symptoms may receive a booster dose 28 days after infection, although they are recommended to do so three months from the infection for better effectiveness.

Vaccination centres are thus administering booster shots to those who are due to receive a booster 28 days after infection.

This means that most infected and recovered people can receive booster shots within 270 days after their second vaccine dose before their fully vaccinated status lapses.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.