Coronavirus case numbers likely to rise with more active screening
Numbers could be more than reported owing to unlinked, mild or hidden cases: Lawrence Wong
The number of Covid-19 cases detected in the community is likely to increase in the coming days as the Government steps up active screening.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry Covid-19 task force, said yesterday he would "not be surprised" to uncover more cases through the increased testing of groups such as the elderly and employees in nursing homes.
He said there could be more Covid-19 cases than reported owing to the presence of unlinked cases, hidden cases and very mild cases.
"These are what they call cryptic or hidden cases, you know, because these are people with very mild symptoms, maybe even no symptoms at all, but they are in the community," added Mr Wong.
"They may be self-medicating, thinking it's just a mild cold and I take a Panadol or I take some flu medicine and it's okay, I rest and it's all right... They are not presenting themselves in the system, they are not going to see a doctor."
He said this is an issue worldwide, and that a better understanding of the situation can be achieved only through more extensive testing.
The Ministry of Health said on Monday it would step up testing for workers in essential services, especially those working with people vulnerable to Covid-19.
These include healthcare workers and front-line officers who have interacted with confirmed cases.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the task force alongside Mr Wong, cited the new Acacia Home cluster in Admiralty which had 14 additional cases on Monday after the first case was detected on Saturday.
Mr Gan said the cases were discovered owing to "comprehensive screening" done at the home.
"As we step up our screening and testing of these vulnerable seniors, you're likely to see more cases being detected, which otherwise would not have been detected if we did not do the screening, and these cases will emerge over the next few days."
Mr Wong said the Government will continue to monitor the case numbers as it ramps up testing.
"As we review the situation, we will decide whether or not there is scope for some easing (of circuit breaker measures).
"I should add that the numbers are what they are, but the numbers we see every day are sometimes also a result of the extensive testing that we do."
Mr Gan added: "We want to test as many as possible, but there's also a natural limit and some strategic logic to who we test and how we test."
The testing strategy will depend on many factors, such as the timing of when Singapore decides to start lifting some of the circuit breaker measures and how the pandemic pans out in the next few weeks.
"For example, if we are planning to open certain sectors in the economy to allow some economic activities to resume, then we may want to step up the testing of the essential workers in these sectors," Mr Gan said, noting that the authorities will have to decide on how to regularly test these workers.
He added: "If some of the (circuit breaker) measures that we roll back do not involve high-risk areas, we may not need to employ testing, we may just need to step up some of the safe distancing measures as we do so."