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'Questions' must be answered before any decision on circuit breaker: Ong Ye Kung

Yahoo News logo Yahoo News 16/5/2021
Ong Ye Kung sitting on a table

SINGAPORE — Several "questions" must be answered in the coming days before the government decides whether it is necessary to impose another circuit breaker, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday evening (16 May).

Ong, who was speaking at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) on COVID-19, was asked why authorities did not go straight into another circuit breaker, given the rising number of community cases. On Sunday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed the detection of 38 local transmissions as of noon, with 18 cases unlinked.

"This is a particularly difficult time to answer that question because you can see the cases rising, and whether the trajectory goes exponentially or flattens...which direction it goes, we will only know in the coming days," said Ong. He pointed out that it was only the first day of the recently imposed Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), with restrictions including a ban on dining in at F&B establishments, which are considered "high risk settings" as they are enclosed spaces with individuals without masks.

Ong Ye Kung sitting on a table: Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung (PHOTO: MCI) Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung (PHOTO: MCI)

"By removing the most risky settings, I think we will make an impact. And furthermore, there is also an indirect impact because once these places are closed, the general activity (does) go down," said the minister, who added that with home-based learning starting next week, activity will be reduced even further.

Secondly, all those with acute respiratory infection (ARI) symptoms who consult a doctor will be subjected to Antigen Rapid Testing (ART), as well as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that all such patients are already subjected to. The ART produces results in just 30 mins, while the PCR test typically takes a day, though its results are more accurate.

Ong said, "Are we able to flush out cases much more quickly in the coming days? And we also want to find out that answer."

Lastly, MOH is also studying the data on two key issues: what is the severity of the disease amongst those who were already vaccinated, or amongst those who got infected by someone who is vaccinated? Ong noted that during the recent outbreak, some 76 individuals who were vaccinated at least with one dose got infected, but none are in intensive care.

"When the time is right, we will make the right decisions. And if it has to come to more stringent measures, as Lawrence has said in the last MTF, we will do so and if it's a CB, we will say it is a CB."

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