SINGAPORE – A pilot facility to allow for international business meetings amid the pandemic has been converted into a facility to house Covid-19 patients instead, as Singapore steps up preparations for the coronavirus to become endemic here.
The Straits Times (ST) understands that Connect @ Changi is now a community care facility. Such facilities house people who test positive for Covid-19 but have mild symptoms and lower risk factors.
The facility is located at Hall 7 and 8 of the Singapore Expo.
When ST visited the area around Hall 7 of the Singapore Expo on Wednesday night (Aug 25), about 30 people were seen entering and leaving the building over a one-hour period. A few of them appeared to be uniformed staff of a local healthcare provider.
Two staff members told ST that the converted Connect @ Changi started taking in Covid-19 patients in recent days.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung first mentioned on Aug 6 that his ministry was in discussions with Connect @ Changi and other facilities to convert part of them into community care facilities.
Speaking at a Covid-19 multi-ministry task force press conference, he said then that as far as possible, the authorities will admit Covid-19 patients into community care facilities instead of hospitals.
Given that 97.5 per cent of infected individuals have mild or no symptoms, community care facilities will be a good site for them to recover, said Mr Ong.
He said that about 40 per cent of infected individuals were admitted to community care facilities, but the proportion is expected to increase as more people get fully vaccinated. Mr Ong had said in July that if Covid-19 is indeed endemic, having 200 or more cases a day may not be an unusual thing at all.
MOH has been setting up more community care facilities in recent months, such as at Village Hotel Sentosa.
As at late last month, there were six community care facilities that can accommodate more than 5,000 individuals.
This was up from the three such facilities in May. It came after spikes in Covid-19 cases, such as with the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, which resulted in more than 100 cases being reported daily.
Meanwhile, the conversion of Connect @ Changi into a community care facility throws the future of the Connect@Singapore initiative into question.
The initiative, which was announced in December last year, was meant to facilitate global business exchanges, as well as to support the revival of Singapore’s air hub.
It was launched in February with the start of Connect@Changi, but has been suspended indefinitely since late-May during phase two (heightened alert).
Other border reopening initiatives will give business travellers in a few countries alternatives to Connect @ Singapore, although they may still be hampered by border restrictions in their own countries.
Singapore has unilaterally launched a vaccinated travel lane that will let travellers from Germany and Brunei enter Singapore and go about their activities without quarantine, provided they test negative for Covid-19 several times.
Meanwhile, short-term visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China (excluding Jiangsu province), New Zealand and Taiwan can also enter Singapore without quarantine under the air travel pass scheme.
ST has contacted MOH, Connect @ Changi and the Ministry of Trade and Industry for comment.