Transcript of Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Multi-Ministry Taskforce Doorstop on 6 September 202106 Sep 2021
Singaporeans have expressed concerns about the rise in cases recently and as we explained last Friday, this was not unexpected, we knew that there would be more cases once we open up and resume activities. What is of concern to us is not just the absolute number of cases, but the rate at which the virus is spreading, and that's the reproduction rate, or R. Currently, the R is more than 1. Cases are doubling every week.
If we continue on this trajectory of infection, it means we could have 1,000 cases in two weeks, or possibly 2,000 cases in a month. We know from the experience of other countries, that when cases rise so sharply, there will be many more ICU cases and also people succumbing to the virus. It's not just the unvaccinated seniors because, even for vaccinated persons, there will be a small proportion of them falling severely ill. And if you have a very high infection caseload, that small proportion will translate to a sizable number of ICU cases and eventually, fatalities. So, we have to slow down the transmission rate and bring R down. We will attempt to do so without going back to another heightened alert. In particular, we will go for aggressive contact tracing and ring-fencing of cases and clusters, and push for more pervasive testing.
We will do several things. One, we will increase the frequency of testing for workers in high risk sectors, we will increase the frequency from once a fortnight to once a week. Second, we will expand the coverage of the mandatory tests to other areas, including workers in retail, malls and supermarkets, as well as delivery personnel and transport workers. Thirdly, beyond the mandated settings, we will distribute Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits to all companies so that they can administer weekly tests for their staff, particularly their on-site staff over the next two months.
So, with all of these measures, we will try to slow down the transmission and buy ourselves time. Buy time to firstly get more seniors vaccinated, and we are making good progress on that front. We have already brought down the number of unvaccinated seniors aged 60 and above, to 94,000. And the numbers will continue to go down, because every day we are getting about 500 seniors coming forward for vaccinations. Second, we will buy time to roll out our booster programme for those aged 60 and above which we announced recently, and the first batch of invites for these seniors to get their boosters will be issued in two weeks’ time. We are also studying the possibility of boosters for younger adults. This will not only protect them, but also help to slow down transmission and further reduce the R.
So, with all of these measures we hope that we can help to slow down transmission, without having to go back to the heightened alert, or the circuit breaker. As I said last week, these are last resort measures and we will try our best to refrain from using them. But we should not rule them out entirely. If, despite our best efforts, we continue to see or we see serious cases in ICU or needing oxygen going up sharply, then we may have no choice but to adopt a more tightened posture.
So, we really need everyone's cooperation to help to bring down our transmission rates and bring our R down, and that means getting everyone to be tested regularly. Everyone should make this a new norm - regular testing. We need everyone to cooperate with the SMMs and exercise social responsibility, and we are calling on everyone to also scale back on non-essential social activities during this period. I think if we all work together and continue to cooperate with one another, we will be able to manage our risks and reopen safely.