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Singapore urges public to wear masks amid reports of rising COVID cases

By Camille Santiago Published May 20, 2024 10:16 am

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Singapore as the country experiences a new wave of infections. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on May 18 urged residents to wear masks.

"The public is urged to exercise personal and social responsibility," the advisory read. "This includes maintaining good personal hygiene; reducing social interactions when feeling unwell; and wearing masks if medically vulnerable, in crowded areas, or when symptomatic."

Ong said the country is at the "beginning part of the wave where it is steadily rising.”

“So I would say the wave should peak in the next two to four weeks, which means between mid- and end of June,” he continued.

The Ministry of Health reported a nearly doubled number of COVID-19 cases, with roughly 25,900 infections from May 5 to 11 compared to 13,700 the week before.

Hospitalizations also saw an increase, averaging around 250 daily compared to 181 previously. If it doubles, Ong said that it is still considered as "manageable." But if it doubles again to 1,000 patients, it "will be a considerable burden on the hospital system."

While ICU cases remained low at three daily, the health minister emphasized that social restrictions could be implemented if necessary. He said that Singapore is vulnerable to COVID-19 waves as it is a transport and communications hub. But for now, the virus is being managed as an endemic disease.

“So Covid-19 is just something that we have to live with. Every year, we should expect one or two waves,” he said.

Ong, however, urged those at risk, including individuals aged 60 and above and those with comorbidities, to get an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine—which remains free for all eligible residents and those who signed up for Healthier SG—to protect themselves against emerging strains.

The Straits Times reported that there are about 250 participating Healthier SG clinics in Singapore. Mobile vaccination teams will be "deployed to selected heartland locations in the coming weeks, in an effort to reach more seniors."

It added that the MOH will be reaching out via SMS to people who haven't gotten a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot in the last year.