Australia's neighbour 'living with Covid' backtracks after record infections

Despite deciding to live with Covid-19, Singapore has decided to bring back a number of restrictions after a record day of infections.

Singapore passed its 80 per cent vaccination milestone in August. Currently, that number is at 82 per cent, meaning it has one of the best vaccination rates in the world.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the time told reporters the pandemic "has upended our world".

"We rolled with the punches and learnt to adapt," he said.

But on Friday, Singapore said it would be tightening restrictions after thousands of new infections. On Sunday, it recorded 1,443 new cases and 1,650 on Saturday.

Saturday’s total was the highest for Singapore throughout the pandemic.

Customers tap their Trace Together Safe Entry token to enter a market in Singapore.
Shoppers check in before entering a market in Singapore. Source: Getty Images

Bringing back restrictions a 'very difficult decision'

Among the restrictions includes at-home learning for students and gatherings will be limited to two people. They will begin Monday and run until October 24.

Gan Kim Yong, trade minister and co-chair of the government's coronavirus taskforce, said it had been a "very difficult decision" to tighten curbs again due to the impact on businesses and people.

But he told the briefing "it will allow us to slow down the speed of increase (in infections) and avoid overtaxing our healthcare workers."

Singapore has already planned for life with Covid and accepted deaths would come with the easing of restrictions.

Alex Cook, an infectious disease modelling expert at the National University of Singapore, said the country would have hundreds of deaths which might seem “shocking”.

He added it is still worth taking efforts to prevent Covid infections but the deaths will be on par with people dying from influenza. As many as 1,000 may die in the next year or two in Singapore if vaccinations among the elderly do not improve, he said.

People exercise in the Marina Bay area of Singapore.
Residents exercise at Marina Bay. Source: Getty Images

Singapore began vaccinating people in February and has kept an aggressive approach to contact tracing. It re-tightened a number of restrictions in mid-July with concerns that infections were rising, many of which were linked to karaoke bars.

But even at this stage, fully vaccinated residents were allowed to enjoy indoor dining as long as they stayed in groups of five.

Australia closely watches Singapore's Covid battle

Still, how Singapore approaches its latest outbreak with its high vaccination rates will be of interest to not only Australia but countries across the globe.

Australia has a vaccine target of 80 per cent too with hopes it will signal the end of extended lockdowns and state border closures.

However, it has been acknowledged that even with 80 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, Australians could still see some form of restrictions from time to time and need to keep using face masks.

Not only will Singapore’s strategy be watched with anticipation by Aussies but it could also have ramifications for international travel.

Singapore has been flagged as a possible international travel destination once Australia hits its vaccine target.

with Reuters

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