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Singapore urges caution as rising cases may test ICU system


SINGAPORE’s leaders are closely watching the intensive care unit situation to make sure its hospital system won’t be overwhelme­d, as reported coronaviru­s disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases breached the 1,000 mark for a second consecutiv­e day, cabinet ministers said.

The next one to two weeks “will be critical,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post late Sunday. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a separate post that while ICU (intensive care unit) capacity is “still holding up,” accident and emergency department­s and general wards in hospitals are coming “under pressure.” Both sit on the task force that handles the virus situation.

Singapore’s plan to shift away from a COVID-zero eliminatio­n strategy, toward living with endemic COVID, relies on limiting serious cases through mass vaccinatio­n. The current increase could test that strategy. The number of serious cases in ICU or in need of oxygen supplement­ation more than doubled to 139 as of Sunday, from 61 a week ago.

“There is no doubt that if our people had not come forward in big numbers to vaccinate ourselves, our healthcare system would have been overwhelme­d by now,” Mr. Ong said.

Singapore’s public acute hospitals had more than 9,600 beds for in-patient care as of 2020. Among hospitals tracked by the health ministry, the beds occupancy rate ranged between 76% and 88% as of Sept. 11.

Singapore’s vaccinatio­n rate of 82% is among the highest in the world according to data compiled by Bloomberg. About 0.2% of infected cases here are at risk of needing ICU care, Mr. Wong said, citing data from the Ministry of Health. While that’s far lower than many western nations that have opened up faster than Singapore, government leaders say they need to ensure ICU cases don’t spike alongside rising overall cases.

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