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People take their antigen rapid test under supervision, at a Quick Test Centre in Singapore

People take their antigen rapid test under supervision, at a Quick Test Centre in Singapore Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters

Singapore’s reimposition of coronavirus restrictions has been met with some rare frustration as the government walks a fine line between reopening and preventing hospitals from getting overwhelmed, Reuters reports.

Singapore has largely kept the virus at bay since last year with masks, contact tracing and a closed border.

Infections are surging to new daily records of more than 2,000, but with 82% of its 5.4 million people fully vaccinated 98.1% of cases over the past month have been asymptomatic or involved only mild symptoms.

Singapore relaxed restrictions in August, after 18 months of largely successful mitigation efforts, with a plan for more easing after reaching the 80% vaccination target in early September.

But instead, with the Delta variant spreading, the reimposition of restrictions, with dining out and other social interactions limited to groups of just two people, has dashed hopes.

“We hit our vaccination targets yet we are moving backwards. The stats speak for itself,” Shin Hui Tan posted on Facebook. “Why we are still not treating this as flu baffles me.”

The government has said the tighter measures are “temporary breaks” needed to buy time to expand healthcare capacity, set up more isolation facilities, reach more of the unvaccinated and get booster shots to those who need them.

About 300 ICU beds can be readied at short notice. As of Thursday, 34 cases were in intensive care but a wave of unvaccinated people getting seriously sick could swamp the health system.

Despite the risks, the government’s message is that in order to open up, Singapore has to learn to live with much higher rates of infection than it has become used to.

“We are not going back to a scenario of low daily cases anymore,” finance minister Lawrence Wong said recently.

“It is not going to be possible, because we are moving forward to learn to live with the virus and we are continuing with our reopening plans.”

Numerous anxious people, most with asymptomatic or mild cases, have been turning up at hospitals and phoning up help lines confused as to just what exactly they are meant to do.

A Milieu Insight survey found 52% of people felt the latest restrictions were “just right”, while 25% think they are too strict and the remainder that they are too lax, the Straits Times newspaper reported this week.