Singapore says healthcare system risks being 'overwhelmed' as virus surges

Singapore (AFP) – Singapore's healthcare system is at risk of being "overwhelmed" by surging coronavirus infections, government officials warned Wednesday, a day after the city-state expanded quarantine-free travel as it shifts its approach to dealing with the pandemic.


The daily number of infections shot to a record 3,994 cases on Tuesday and the death toll continues to rise.

"At the current situation, we face considerable risk of the healthcare system being overwhelmed," said Lawrence Wong, co-chairs of a government task force fighting Covid-19.

Wong, who is also the finance minister, said nearly 90 percent of isolation beds in hospitals have been filled and more than two-thirds of intensive care unit beds are occupied.

Most of Singapore's cases are mild or asymptomatic with patients recovering at home, allowing hospitals to focus on seriously sick Covid patients.

"We are trying to add capacity, but it's not simply a matter of having extra beds or purchasing new equipment because... our medical personnel are stretched and fatigued," Wong said.

"And while we are trying to reinforce the team, it will take time for these reinforcements to come in."

Taskforce co-leader and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the number of infections among unvaccinated people aged 60 years and above "continues to be high", accounting for two-thirds of patients in the ICU and those who have died.

Their comments came a day after the city-state expanded its quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated passengers to include eight countries, including key trading partners the United States, Britain and France.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the global business hub cannot remain closed indefinitely, and the city-state has shifted from a zero-tolerance strategy with lockdowns and closed borders to taking the approach of living with Covid-19.

The travel lane arrangement started with Brunei and Germany last month, and will include South Korea from November 15.

Flights under the expanded arrangement began arriving Wednesday.

Singapore has reported nearly 155,000 coronavirus cases with 246 deaths as of Tuesday.