Fully vaccinated COVID patients to isolate at home under pilot

·Senior Editor
·3 min read
A doctor injects a woman with Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a private clinic in Singapore on July 6, 2021. (Photo by Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty Images)
A doctor injects a woman with Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a private clinic in Singapore on 6 July 2021. (PHOTO: Xinhua via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The government will pilot a home-centric care model for the management of fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms from 30 August amid the stable pandemic situation, the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) said on Thursday (19 August).

"Our high vaccination rates have allowed us to review our treatment and care model for COVID-19 patients," said Ministry of Health (MOH) Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak during a virtual press conference, adding that more local and global data show that fully vaccinated COVID-19 individuals have a much lower risk of developing severe disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also endorsed this approach in its guidelines on the management of COVID-19 infection, Associate Prof Mak added.

Under the home isolation pilot programme, the patients and their household members must both be fully vaccinated and must not belong to any vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, those above the age of 60 or are immunocompromised.

The patients will spend the first few days in a medical facility before being isolated at home. They must have a suitable home setting, such as with an ensuite toilet, where they can be separated from the rest of their household.

During this period, the patients and their household members are required to remain in their place of residence, and they will be tracked through electronic monitoring and surveillance checks through phone calls.

The patients will also be closely monitored for their health during this period and will be provided with access to 24/7 telemedicine services. They will also be subject to a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab on the ninth day of illness to determine if they could be discharged from isolation, provided their swab result is negative or if they carry a very low viral load.

All household members will also need to be quarantined at home and be placed on a daily antigen rapid test (ART) testing regimen.

Health Minister and MTF co-chair Ong Ye Kung said it makes sense to move a notch further from community care facilities to home recovery.  

"So if we want to live in (a world where) COVID-19 is an endemic disease, this is a crucial step to take. It will further free up our hospital capacity, enable our healthcare system to revert to peacetime operations, and attend to the healthcare needs of our population," Ong said.

He noted that it is not a new concept, with countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK implementing it quite successfully. 

"We have been a lot more cautious, but now that the great majority of our people are fully vaccinated, we should also take a step in this direction," he added.

As of 17 August, 77 per cent of Singapore’s population have completed their full regimen or received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and 82 per cent have received at least one dose.

“There is clear evidence that vaccination can significantly reduce severe illnesses and deaths. Among the infected cases, almost 9 per cent of the unvaccinated needed intensive care or oxygen supplementation and around 1 per cent were deceased, whereas only 1.3 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively of the vaccinated did so,” MOH said.

As of 17 August, the number of new local cases has halved from an average of 123 cases per day about two weeks ago, to 63 cases per day in the past week. 

For the past two weeks, the number of cases that were isolated before detection has remained stable at around half of the total cases detected, while unlinked cases similarly remained stable at around a quarter of the total cases.

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