ICU Numbers May Grow Quickly Amid Covid-19 Surge, Lawrence Wong Warns Against Complacency

Percentage In ICU Higher If More Seniors Or Unvaccinated Infected: Minister

On Saturday (18 Sep), Singapore passed the 1,000 mark in daily Covid-19 case numbers.

The vast majority of our cases have had mild or no symptoms, so some may think we’ve nothing to worry about.

However, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong has flagged an area of concern: Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

He said the number of patients in the ICU may “grow very quickly”.


Thus, Singaporeans shouldn’t be complacent about our current situation.

ICU cases closely watched

In a Facebook post on Sunday (19 Sep) night, Mr Wong noted that the authorities are closely watching the ICU cases amid the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.


What they’re afraid of is our hospital system becoming overwhelmed.

And we should care about this because as he previously said, Singapore may return to Heightened Alert if ICU cases rise sharply.

Return To Heightened Alert Only If ICU Cases Rise Sharply, S’pore Ramps Up Testing

Vaccine protection not 100%: Wong

Some may think that since 82% of our population is fully vaccinated, there’s nothing to worry about.

After all, being vaccinated protects us from severe illness when infected, right?


Mr Wong said that’s true, but also added,

the protection is not 100%.

0.2% of cases risk ICU care

Thus, despite Singapore being a highly vaccinated nation, 0.2% of Covid-19 cases are still at risk of a stay in the ICU.

As this is a percentage, the actual number of people in the ICU may be big or small depending on the number of cases there are.

And when there’s an exponentially rising number of cases, as we’re expecting, that means ICU cases can grow very quickly, Mr Wong said.

Photo for illustration purposes only

He also reminded the public that 1 case may stay in the ICU for more than 2 weeks, so a bed space will be taken up for that amount of time.

0.2% figure may go up

The 0.2% figure may not stay constant either, the minister said.

If more seniors or unvaccinated people get infected, it may go up.

That means a higher percentage of Covid-19 cases will need ICU care.

Next 1-2 weeks will be critical

As it stands, the next 1-2 weeks will be critical, Mr Wong said.

2 factors will need to be monitored:

  1. trajectory of the infection
  2. our overall hospital/ICU situation

Right now, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said earlier on Sunday (19 Sep) that our ICU capacity is still holding up, but our A&E and general wards are “under pressure”.


The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that public hospitals have been experiencing a surge in patients rushing to A&E departments with mild acute respiratory infection symptoms.

21 cases now in ICU

Here’s an overview of the current ICU situation.

On Sunday (19 Sep), MOH reported in a news release that there are 21 Covid-19 cases currently in critical condition in the ICU.

In the days before that, the figures were:

18 Sep: 18
17 Sep: 14
16 Sep: 12
15 Sep: 9

That means in the last 5 days, the number of ICU patients went up by 2-4 daily.

This is compared with the rest of the month before this, when ICU numbers fluctuated by just ±1 case per day.


So it does seem that the number of ICU cases may be starting to increase exponentially.

That’s certainly something that we should be concerned about. Besides straining hospital capacity, it may also lead to more deaths.

Don’t assume ICU numbers will stay low: Wong

Due to these reasons, Mr Wong warned Singaporeans not to be complacent.

Don’t assume our ICU numbers will continue to stay low, he added.

Similarly, we shouldn’t think our ICU capacity will never be put to the test.

He also advised us to protect ourselves and our loved ones by scaling back on non-essential social activities, especially for seniors or those who live with seniors.

We’re also encouraged to test ourselves with self-test kits that have been provided to many households.

Focus now on ICU cases

As move towards Covid-19 being endemic, the focus naturally shifts to our hospital system and whether it can take the influx of patients.

If the situation turns precarious, it could signal that we’re not coping well and stronger measures may be needed – and we certainly don’t want another Heightened Alert.

So don’t be too smug about Singapore’s ability to ride this crisis – things could go wrong very fast, very soon.

Do play your part by cutting down on non-essential social activities and following the usual safe distancing measures.

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