SINGAPORE, June 27 — The authorities will not be tightening Covid-19 safety management measures for now, in spite of an expected wave of infections, as the situation in hospitals is stable, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong today.

While Singapore “must expect” numbers to rise as the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are more infectious and transmissible than previous ones, there has been no evidence of increased severity, said Wong.

He was speaking to reporters at a residents centre in Yishun Avenue 5, after witnessing the redeployment of mobile vaccination centres to heartlands with Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. Both ministers co-chair the task force handling the Republic’s pandemic response.

The overall situation in the hospitals remains stable, said Wong, who is also the finance minister.

“For now, our assessment is that we will be able to ride through this wave based on our current posture,” he said, adding that there is currently no need to tighten safe management measures.

“But we will monitor the situation closely, including the infection trajectory over the coming weeks, the severity, as well as the hospital situation. And if need be, we will have to make adjustments,” he said.

Ong added that he hopes the coming Covid-19 wave will not be as severe as Singapore’s previous infection waves involving the Delta and Omicron variants.

The Delta wave in mid-2021 had put pressure on the intensive care units of hospitals, while the Omicron wave at the start of the year had stressed the regular wards. Nevertheless, he emphasised that hospitals wards are still kept busy due to the “business-as-usual” debt.

“I don’t think (for the next wave), based on other countries’ experience, we will reach 26,000 a day which we experienced last year, which I hope will translate into a situation that is better for hospitals,” said the health minister.

Asked today about what indicators will be looked at before the authorities tighten Covid-19 infection control measures, Wong said that it would not be based on just one indicator, “and certainly not based on the headline numbers”.

The government’s key priority has always been to ensure that the hospital system is not overwhelmed, he said.

“To manage that, we will look at a range of indicators; the infection trajectory, because that can give a sign of the potential cases that will go to hospital, the severity (of infections), and finally the hospital situation itself,” said Wong.

Focus on vaccinations

Wong said that the government’s present focus is to bring more elderly people, who have yet to take their booster vaccination shot, to do so. About 70,000 residents aged above 60 have yet to take their booster shot, down from 80,000 last week.

Ten antigen rapid test (ART) test kits will also be distributed to each household next month, to encourage self-testing efforts within the community, said Wong.

Today, both ministers saw mobile vaccination centres redeployed at a residents centre in Yishun, a move which Wong said was to encourage older people to step forward to take their booster jabs.

Such centres are part of the government’s strategy to bring the national vaccination exercise closer to elderly residents’ homes.

Towards the end of 2021, mobile vaccination teams pivoted from heartlands to nursing homes in light of the higher uptake in vaccinations among the general public at the time.

Wong said that the recent uptick of headline infection numbers was largely driven by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. More than 5,100 new Covid-19 cases were reported yesterday.

Wong said that authorities were concerned about seniors who have not received their booster vaccination dose, especially as the country braces for a new wave of infections.

A MOH spokesperson said that teams were rolled out to three locations simultaneously today — Yishun, Chai Chee and Telok Blangah — with the numbers to be ramped up to 25 teams in the next two weeks, roving around 50 sites.

The ministry said that the teams will be deployed at each site for about two to three days, with a capacity of giving out up to 200 jabs a day.

Volunteers will go door-to-door to inform residents of the initiative ahead of the teams’ deployment, said MOH.

Boosters encouraged even after infection

Speaking to reporters, Ong addressed a few questions which he had frequently heard from among residents.

Firstly, he said that it was not necessary to switch to a different vaccine brand for their booster shots compared to the first two primary doses.

“All the vaccines that we have approved for booster are all very good or very effective, so there is no need to purposely change the vaccine,” he said.

For residents who may be worried about taking mRNA vaccines for various reasons, such as having experienced side effects when taking earlier doses, he recommended the Novavax vaccine, which is available at the vaccination centre in Bishan.

Novavax is based on a traditional type of vaccine-employing technology, which has been used for decades to combat diseases like influenza.

Ong also said that residents should also take their booster shots even if they have been infected before.

This is because those who have completed their primary two doses of vaccines react differently to infection.

“Some mount a meaningful response, some may not mount a meaningful response. So it’s better for everyone to take the (booster) jab,” he said.

On why the government is currently not strongly encouraging people in their 50s to take their second booster dose or fourth shots, Ong said that data shows that protection against severe illness and hospitalisation for this age group remains “very strong” after nine months of taking their first booster shot.

However, the authorities are making the shots available for individuals who would like to take up these injections due to their own concerns, such as having underlying health conditions or due to them living with the elderlies.

The public can check the latest locations of the mobile vaccination teams here. — TODAY