Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Options notwithstanding, Singapore’s COVID-19 strategy is on track

SINGAPORE (AP) – As Singapore embarked on its strategy for living with COVID-19, backed by one of the world’s leading vaccination programs, this affluent city-state saw a spike in infections, leaving many wondering if the time was Right.

But with the numbers now falling as fast as they were rising, there is cautious optimism that the widely watched plan helped Singapore turn the corner in the pandemic, even with the discovery of a worrisome new omicron variant, and provide a better understanding of which is effective. and what not.

“I think COVID now seems like a common flu to everyone,” Glacier Chong said as he took a break from shopping on Singapore’s popular Orchard Road to watch the fountain and listen to Christmas music playing from the large speakers. Street.

“Everyone gets used to it; it looks like if you have COVID this is the norm now. COVID seems like a treatable disease. “

Part of this confidence comes from the numbers cited by Singapore.

94% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, and a further 26% have already been revaccinated, even as the number of infections began to rise, about 99% had no symptoms or only mild symptoms, which means that health systems were under pressure, but never overwhelmed. … Mortality increased but remained low, and the majority were elderly people with underlying medical conditions, a disproportionate number of whom had not been vaccinated.

Singapore has succeeded in vaccinating so many people by providing the least amount of barriers to vaccination, increasing the hardships for the unvaccinated (for example, by barring them from dining in restaurants or shopping malls), and overall trust in the government and its authorities. said Alex Cook, a specialist in infectious disease modeling and statistics at the School of Public Health. Saw Swee Hock National University of Singapore.

“Perhaps the main lesson to be learned from Singapore is that it is easy to get vaccinated and difficult not to get vaccinated,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, a major business and shopping center in Southeast Asia kept the spread of coronavirus at single or low double digits for nearly a year by imposing a hard lock with a “switch.”

With full swing vaccinations, an aggressive testing and tracking regime, and strict health and safety regulations, a nation of 5.5 million people felt confident when it embarked on what it called “the transition to a nation,” in August. resistant to COVID-19. “

It was part of the decision to start treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease, recognizing that it would not be possible to reduce cases to zero in the long term and that it was time to gradually allow people and businesses to return to normal life.

In addition to its highly vaccinated population, Singapore calculated that its testing was comprehensive enough to quickly identify and isolate new clusters of outbreaks, and that its health system was capable of handling any more serious cases.

The highly transmissive delta option changed the plan dramatically, and the government again tightened some isolation measures in September, such as reducing group sizes for public gatherings and dining out in restaurants.

By the end of October, Singapore had hit a 7-day moving average of nearly 700 cases per million, the worst ever recorded in an entire pandemic.

It fell to 258ppm this week; is still well above the worst peak at the start of the outbreak in 2020, but has a clear downward trend. In absolute terms, it peaked at more than 5,300 daily infections, and now stands at less than 1,000.

The peak mortality rate in 7 days was 2.57 per million people on November 10, and now just over 1, according to Our World in Data.

In contrast, the latest spike in neighboring Malaysia in September peaked at 12.71 deaths per million. The country has also seen a sharp decline in these rates, and they are now about the same level as in Singapore, helped by a campaign that has resulted in almost 80% of people being fully vaccinated.

If a mistake was made, Cook said that home isolation for mild or asymptomatic patients would be allowed at the end of August, rather than in hospitals or specialist facilities, just as the number of cases was starting to rise rapidly. The goal was to ease pressure on the health care system, he said, but instead led to the rapid spread of the virus in communities.

“In the event of future outbreaks of such dangerous viruses, countries should seriously consider allowing infected patients to recover at home, no matter how mild their symptoms are,” he said.

The restrictions have been eased again since then, but Prime Minister Li Hsien Loong said Sunday that with the omicron option, the easing may need to be lifted, and said Singaporeans should be prepared for “more shocks along the way” as the virus is developing.

“We may well be forced to take a few steps back again before we can take more steps forward,” he said. “Despite all this, I am confident that in the end we will find a way to live with the virus and safely resume what we love to do.”

For starters, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Tuesday that he would refrain from additional opening measures as he evaluates the omicron option and increases testing for travelers and frontline workers.

However, the country went ahead on Monday, partially opening the Causeway Bridge connecting Singapore to the Malaysian Peninsula, which has been closed for nearly two years.

On Orchard Road, housewife Lee Ching Yi said the emergence of the omicron variant was cause for concern because two of her youngest children have not yet been vaccinated.

However, she decided that for a quick shopping trip with her family, it was safe enough to pick a new Apple watch for her senior, 12, as a reward for doing well in recent exams.

“We go to the store and then we’re going to have dinner outside as we can eat in groups of five,” she said. “But we are looking somewhere in the fresh air for safety reasons. You have to balance everything. “

With these precautions and high vaccination rates, Singapore still has a good chance of coping with new options, which is to be expected, Cook said.

“As long as vaccinations continue to provide reliable protection against serious illness, I did not expect the emergence of a new option would lead to a fundamental rethinking of the strategy for living with COVID,” he said.

Sitting with Glacier Chong by a fountain on Orchard Road, her boyfriend, Marcus Yeoh, said he wasn’t too worried about the omicron just yet, judging by Singapore’s track record.

“This option is still completely unknown to us,” he said. “But looking at how we have grown out of the delta phase, I think we will be fine.”

_____ Reported growth from Bangkok.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
Latest news
Related news
- Advertisement -