SINGAPORE — Singapore has refrained from tightening social-distancing measures even as the highly infectious delta variant has driven Covid-19 cases up sharply, while the country shifts to a long-term strategy of living with the coronavirus.
“This rapid and exponential rise in daily infections that we are experiencing now is what every country that seeks to live with Covid-19 has to go through at some point,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at a media briefing Friday.
Singapore has one of the highest vaccination rates globally, with 81% of the population fully vaccinated, data from the health ministry showed. Cases have been rising rapidly, from an average of 76 a day a fortnight ago to 288 a day in the past week, the ministry said in a Friday statement.
At the current trajectory, the number of cases could soon reach 1,000 per day, it added.
But the number of serious cases has remained low. As of Thursday, there were 26 cases of serious illness requiring oxygen supplementation and seven critical cases in intensive care units, said the health ministry.
Still, the city-state wants to limit the number of deaths from Covid and avoid overwhelming its hospitals, said Ong. That’s why the government is not opening up the economy further for now, added the minister.
“Practically every country that has gone through this kind of transmission wave has suffered hospital collapses and high death tolls — we want to avoid that,” said Ong. He added that if the country can achieve that, it will not have to return to a “long, hard lockdown.”
Singapore’s government has both tightened and eased measures several times since May as the highly infectious delta variant spreads in the country. It started to ease measures last month, including allowing larger groups to gather and dining-in at food and beverage establishments.
But earlier this week, the government announced a ban on workplace gatherings and more aggressive testing to “detect and ringfence” cases more quickly. It also encouraged people to limit social gatherings in the next few weeks.
The Singapore government said Friday it will allow more infected people who are fully vaccinated to recover at home, provided they meet certain criteria. That includes having mild symptoms and the ability to be isolated from the rest of the household.
Singapore will also reduce the quarantine period for people exposed to the coronavirus locally, in view of the shorter incubation period of the delta variant.
Singapore has reported a total of more than 70,000 confirmed Covid cases and 57 deaths since the beginning of last year, according to the health ministry.