SINGAPORE, Sept.24 (Reuters) – Singapore on Friday announced it would tighten COVID-19 restrictions to limit social gatherings to two people and make working from home a default, in a bid to contain a spike in infections and reduce pressure on the healthcare system.
Despite a rapid vaccination campaign, the city-state recorded more than 1,000 daily cases this week, including 1,504 on Thursday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
In a statement released on Friday, the health ministry said: “Many COVID-positive people with mild symptoms seek medical care in our hospitals when it may not be necessary.”
With 82% of the population fully vaccinated, about 98% of coronavirus cases in the past four weeks had no symptoms or had mild symptoms, he said in a report a day earlier.
Singapore ministers said at a press conference on Friday that the increase in COVID-19 cases on the island of 5.7 million people had put “enormous” pressure on its healthcare system.
The latest restrictions take effect Monday and will last until October 24.
Gan Kim Yong, Minister of Commerce and co-chair of the government’s coronavirus task force, said it had been a “very difficult decision” to tighten restrictions again due to the impact on businesses and people.
But he told the briefing “this will allow us to slow the rate of increase (of infections) and avoid overloading our healthcare workers.”
Health officials said infections were doubling every eight days and, without further measures, could jump to 6,000 a day in a matter of weeks.
For mild cases of COVID-19, authorities are also trying to put in place arrangements for more people to recover at home and to expand isolation facilities.
Singapore’s attempt to encourage more COVID-19 patients to stay at home caused some confusion this week, with a hotline overflowing with calls. To further protect its population, the Southeast Asian country is also expanding its booster vaccination program to cover people aged 50 to 59 from early October.
Report by Chen Lin in Singapore Editing by Ed Davies
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