SINGAPORE: The weekly growth rate of COVID-19 infections in Singapore went above 1 on Tuesday (Jan 4) for the first time since Nov 12, 2021, data from the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) website showed.
The weekly infection growth rate refers to the ratio of community cases for the past week over the week before. Authorities have described the statistic as one of the key indicators that can be used to assess risk levels when calibrating COVID-19 measures.
A number above 1 indicates that the number of new weekly COVID-19 cases is rising – it reached 1.09 on Tuesday.
The weekly infection growth rate had dropped to a low of 0.52 on Dec 24, but it has been increasing steadily since then.
MOH first started providing the weekly infection growth rate in October 2021, with data dating back to end-August.
On Aug 30, 2021, it hit 3.01, as Singapore saw surging COVID-19 cases driven by the more infectious Delta variant.
The rate stayed around 2 for most of September, before falling steadily from end-September. On Oct 16, it dropped below the 1-mark, but rose again slightly.
At a press conference on Oct 23, co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force Lawrence Wong said that if the weekly infection growth rate dropped below 1, the Government would make some “calibrated” easing in COVID-19 restrictions.
This included allowing more people to dine in at food and beverage outlets, while some team sports could go ahead.
On Oct 23, the weekly infection growth rate stood at 1.14. It dipped below 1 on Nov 3 to 0.96. With the exception of Nov 12 – when the rate was 1.04 – it had remained below 1 since.
Some COVID-19 restrictions were eventually eased in November, with social gatherings of up to five people allowed and the dining-in limit for fully vaccinated people also increased to five.
The weekly infection growth rate is not the only statistic to consider when assessing the COVID-19 situation in Singapore, a disease modelling expert at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said in October.
“If the weekly ratio goes below 1 for a sustained time, it means the epidemic is shrinking, at least in terms of the diagnosed cases,” said Dr Alex Cook.
But he cautioned that this could be due to the scaling back of contact tracing efforts and strictness of isolation and quarantine requirements.
“It’s important not to get too excited if the ratio falls below 1, unless the number of severe cases is also falling,” said Dr Cook.
He added that people should look at a “broader set of metrics”, including the healthcare utilisation due to COVID-19.
The intensive care unit utilisation rate in Singapore was 43.8 per cent on Tuesday, and has stayed below 50 per cent since Dec 29, 2021.
The number of patients requiring oxygen supplementation has also trended downwards in recent weeks, with 21 reported on Tuesday.
Singapore reported 842 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Tuesday. Three fatalities from the disease were also reported.
Separately, MOH’s website also showed that 438 new Omicron infections were confirmed on Tuesday, comprising 347 imported cases and 91 local cases.
As of Tuesday, Singapore has recorded a total of 281,596 COVID-19 cases and 832 deaths from coronavirus complications since the start of the pandemic.