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The handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by the Government’s Multi-Ministerial Task Force has been plagued with a distinct lack of coherence and direction. This has left Singaporeans confused and frustrated.
The lack of a clear strategy in dealing with the pandemic has also left businesses unable to plan ahead. The reactive nature of the MMTF’s approach in dealing with outbreaks of infections has led to stop-start, on-again/off-again policies which had impacted adversely on both employers and employees.
In light of this, the SDP has developed an 8-point plan to exit the pandemic and get Singapore out of the current mess and into a more stable and hopeful future. The paper has been drawn up by the party’s healthcare panel which also wrote our National Healthcare Plan in 2013 which was updated more recently in 2019.
1. Stop testing asymptomatic vaccinated individuals outside of contact tracing. This will help ensure that resources are concentrated on those who need them most – the elderly and vulnerable who are actually infected.
2. Ensure that those who test positive including pregnant women and children report to the nearest Public Health Preparedness Clinic (private General Practitioners or polyclinics) who can then evaluate them and decide if they need to be hospitalised or simply monitored over the week or so as we do with other infectious diseases such as urinary tract infections or food poisoning. GPs should be appropriately compensated for the care they provide.
3. Facilitate nursing homes to keep infected patients who are stable and do not need hospitalisation in their facilities but segregate them from the rest of the residents. Have GPs check on them and decide when they need hospitalisation. This will relieve the strain on hospitals and ensure that those who need hospital care are not deprived or delayed.
4. Set up a dedicated ambulance hotline similar to what was used during SARS for those who have tested positive or are identified as contacts so they can be rapidly brought to the hospital if their pulse oximeter readings show evidence of low oxygen concentrations.
5. Publish regular reports on test positivity and all clusters (like the dengue cluster reports) as in the recent decision to publish a map of emerging cases. This will help the public to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms after visiting those areas.
6. Do away with blanket closures and restrictions. Instead, implement interventions that are targeted like with food poisoning outbreaks or hand, foot and mouth disease outbreaks in childcare centres. Shut the physical building or facility where an outbreak occurs instead of across the whole island where outbreaks have not occurred.
7. Intensify molecular epidemiology (genetic fingerprinting) process. Every public hospital and referral lab must perform this for every positive case and the information should be fed into a database modelled on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) GISAID and the information therein made publicly available. This will make the identification of large clusters reliable.
8. Conduct rapid adaptive design randomized clinical trials on all WHO-approved vaccines so they can be brought in for the trials and studied as boosters or primary doses. These vaccines should be commissioned and funded rapidly. The same should be done for other preventative agents which have shown promise in earlier randomized trials such as povidone iodine or ivermectin. This will settle once and for all in a clear scientific manner many of the questions swirling around social media on alternatives to the current vaccination strategies.
Collectively, these measures will provide society with a more reliable and predictable way of handling the pandemic. They will build confidence as we go forward in dealing with a virus that is here to stay. Singapore must deal with the pandemic in a steady and intelligent manner that brings hope and security.
*We welcome public feedback on these measures. Please provide your comments here.
*If you have a burning question that we can answer on our APA programme this Tuesday night, ask it here.
*If you have general comments or remarks, go to our Faceback post.