SINGAPORE: In the second week of December, there was a notable surge in COVID-19 infection cases, reaching a peak for 2023 with 58,300 reported cases during epi-week 50.
This figure surpassed the prior record of 56,043 cases in the previous week.
On Thursday (21 Dec) evening, the Ministry of Health’s website updated statistics concerning Singapore’s COVID-19 situation.
During the week of 10 to 16 December, the number of new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in Singapore significantly increased to 965, compared to 763 in the preceding week.
Similarly, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions rose from 23 to 32 within the same period, marking the highest weekly hospitalization and ICU admission rates for COVID-19 patients throughout the year.
To provide context, the weekly hospitalization count two weeks prior stood at 460, with nine new ICU admissions.
MOH clarified that healthcare utilization indicators like hospitalizations and ICU cases typically follow behind the estimated weekly infection numbers due to the time taken for COVID-19 symptoms to manifest in patients.
MOH’s figures on Thursday also indicated that the average daily hospitalizations reached their peak for the year, totalling 560 cases.
This figure surged from 350 cases the week before and notably increased from 225 cases recorded two weeks prior.
Likewise, the average daily ICU cases exhibited a similar pattern, escalating to 13 cases compared to nine cases reported the previous week and four cases documented two weeks ago.
In contrast, the seven-day moving average of estimated daily cases has exhibited a declining trend in recent days.
It dropped from 7,730 on 17 Dec to 6,820 the following day, further decreasing to 6,530 cases on 19 Dec.
The seven-day moving average serves as a statistical tool designed to smooth out the daily fluctuations in reported COVID-19 infection numbers over a week. This metric is computed by calculating the average of the newly reported COVID-19 infections over the preceding seven days.
Due to methodological differences, daily estimates will not add up to estimates by Epi-week, but will reflect similar trends.
Recent spike in COVID-19 infections
Last Friday, MOH reported a significant spike in COVID-19 infections, with the number surging to 56,043 during the week of 3 to 9 December.
This marks a staggering 75 per cent increase compared to the previous week’s tally of 32,035 cases.
In response to the surge in cases, MOH has initiated daily updates on COVID-19 figures from 19 Dec, aiming to provide the latest information amid this period of heightened infections.
According to the Straits Times, Professor Paul Tambyah of NUH, speaking in his capacity as president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, advised the public not to panic regarding the rising COVID-19 infection numbers.
Instead, he emphasized the importance of sensible precautions, urging individuals to prioritize their health, refrain from attending work or school if feeling unwell, and seek medical attention when necessary.
Prof Tambyah highlighted that while ICU case numbers may trail actual waves of infection by a week or two, they offer an objective assessment of strain on the healthcare system, representing cases necessitating critical ventilatory or circulatory support.
MOH urges citizens to wear masks in crowded places
MOH issued a public advisory on 15 December urging citizens to wear masks in crowded places, irrespective of their health status.
Emphasizing the importance of this precaution, especially indoors or around vulnerable individuals, they aim to curb the transmission of the virus within the community.
To accommodate the rising number of COVID-19 patients, MOH disclosed plans to open a second treatment facility at Singapore Expo Hall 10 over the upcoming weekend.
This facility, alongside the existing one at Crawfurd Hospital in Adam Road, will offer a combined capacity of over 80 beds. MOH assured that the new facility can be expanded if the need arises.
Additionally, hospitals are implementing measures to meet the surge in demand for beds.
“To preserve our healthcare capacity, MOH has been working with public hospitals for contingency planning, including ensuring adequate manpower and deferring of non-urgent electives to maximise bed capacity for urgent cases in need of acute care,” MOH said.
In light of the escalating situation, MOH also stressed the importance of responsible travel practices.
Travellers are advised to take precautions such as wearing masks at airports, purchasing travel insurance for potential overseas medical care, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation.
MOH additionally mentioned that a significant majority of the COVID-19 cases in Singapore are attributed to infections by JN.1, a sublineage of BA.2.86.
“Based on the available international and local data, there is currently no clear indication that BA.2.86 or JN.1 are more transmissible or cause more severe disease than other circulating variants,” said MOH.
Urging personal and social responsibility, MOH emphasized that individuals experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home until they recover and avoid contact with others.
MOH also urged the public to seek medical treatment at a hospital’s Emergency Department only for serious or life-threatening emergencies.
“This will preserve our hospital capacity for patients who truly need acute hospital care and allow those with severe illness to receive timely treatment,” the ministry said.
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