SINGAPORE: Singapore must expect a new wave of COVID-19 cases in the coming days and weeks, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday, adding that extensive preparations have been made for this anticipated wave.
"It is inevitable that Omicron will spread in our community as it has in countries everywhere," said Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, in a Facebook post on Monday.
"But we have done whatever we can to prepare for this next wave, and we can weather through it together as one people," The Straits Times quoted Wong as saying.
When the Omicron variant emerged last month, the authorities initially adopted a more cautious containment approach to slow down its spread and learn more about it, he said.
It has been found that Omicron is likely to be more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant, and that current vaccines and boosters are effective in protecting against severe illnesses caused by Omicron, he added.
The authorities are now adjusting protocols to manage Omicron cases in the same way as for Delta ones, said Wong.
For instance, Omicron cases or close contacts can recover under the home recovery programme instead of being isolated at dedicated facilities.
"We will then prioritise our healthcare resources for the more severe cases, as well as those who are more vulnerable," he said.
Wong encouraged the public to get vaccinated to avoid restrictions on their movements, including not being able to go to the office.
The MOH announced on Sunday that unvaccinated workers will not be allowed to return to the workplace from January 15 next year, even with a negative COVID-19 test.
The move is meant to bolster Singapore's protection against a large wave of local Omicron cases and keep workplaces here safe, the MOH said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that around 52,000 employees in Singapore have not taken any COVID-19 vaccine.
Around 6,700 are aged 60 years and above, and are at a very high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 infection, it added.
It noted that only a small proportion of these workers are medically ineligible for vaccination, while 98 per cent of the workforce, excluding self-employed persons, have been inoculated.
As of December 19, 80 per cent of firms have attained full vaccine coverage for their workforce.
This is considerable progress, MOM said, as it marks a drop from the 75,000 employees who were not vaccinated as of December 5.
These updates come in the wake of the Ministry of Health's announcement on Sunday that unvaccinated employees will not be allowed to return to the workplace from January 15 next year.
This rule stands even if they test negative for COVID-19, 24 hours beforehand.
Those certified to be medically ineligible or have recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days can return.
Those who are partially inoculated can go to the workplace, but with a negative pre-event testing result up to January 31.
After January 31, they must be fully vaccinated, media reports said citing the MOH.