Once deemed a Covid-19 success story and the perfect example of how to live with it, Singapore’s grip on coronavirus has seemingly gotten out of hand.
Singapore recorded 3,637 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday with 14 more deaths. More than 80 per cent of its population are fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Daily case numbers have reached almost 4000.
Wednesday saw Singapore record 18 deaths – its worst day of the pandemic so far.
Lawrence Wong, co-chair of a government task force fighting Covid-19, said on Thursday Singapore faces "considerable risk of the healthcare system being overwhelmed".
Mr Wong, who is also the finance minister, said nearly 90 percent of isolation beds in hospitals have been filled and more than two-thirds of intensive care unit beds are occupied.
A recent spike in infections after the relaxation of some restrictions has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. The city-state extended its social curbs on Wednesday to contain the spread of Covid-19 for around a month in order to ease the pressure on the healthcare system.
More than 80 per cent of Singapore's population has been vaccinated against the virus – a milestone it hit in August. It has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
Alex Cook, a disease modelling expert at the National University of Singapore, said Singapore “may potentially experience two to three epidemic waves as measures are increasingly relaxed”.
"Until then, deaths will probably continue to rise, unless many of the residual unvaccinated elders can be vaccinated or more get their booster shot,” he said.
Fully vaccinated people made up about 30 per cent of deaths over the last month, most older than 60 with underlying medical woes, in line with studies showing that vaccines offer less protection to the old and very ill.
But Singapore's rolling seven-day average of 1.77 daily deaths per million people outstrips regional peers such as Japan with 0.14, South Korea with 0.28, and Australia with 0.58, the website Our World in Data shows.
It trails the US figure of 4.96, and Britain's 1.92.
Singapore began vaccinating people in February and its government was lauded for strict contact tracing and a balance with allowing people to enjoy bars and restaurants while managing to slow infection rates.
Mr Cook said policymakers in Australia, New Zealand and China should study what is occurring in Singapore.
NSW has already surpassed 80 per cent of its population over 16 receiving two doses of vaccine while Victoria has reached 70. Both states were in lengthy lockdowns due to outbreaks.
Experts are divided as to whether Australia will face the same fate as Singapore.
Professor Jaya Dantas from the Curtin School of Population Health said she does not believe NSW will see the same increase for a number of reasons.
“Singapore is densely populated with people using the MRT (mass rail transport) and buses,” she told Yahoo News Australia earlier this month.
Dr Dantas added “thousands” of migrant workers also live in dormitories and many people go to malls and eat at hawkers markets until late.
“Our cities are not so densely populated,” she said.
However, Dr Zoë Hyde from the University of Western Australia told Yahoo News Australia Singapore “is a warning for Australia”.
“Modelling clearly shows that we're going to need to vaccinate over 90 per cent of our entire population before we can return to something resembling normal life,” Dr Hyde said.
“This is a high target, but I think Australians will rise to the challenge. We already achieve over 95 per cent vaccination in our regular childhood vaccination programs.”
“If we don't learn from the mistakes of other countries and try to rush things, we'll only have to introduce restrictions again in the future. Slow and steady wins this race.”
Dale Fisher, an expert on infectious diseases at the National University Hospital, said most deaths are from those who are unvaccinated.
"The reality is that as Covid becomes endemic more and more people will get Covid,” he said.
with Reuters and AFP
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