Why NSW will avoid daunting Covid case surge seen in Singapore

·News Reporter
·4-min read

While NSW nervously awaits a rise in Covid cases following its reopening on Monday, experts say it could avoid a similar fate to Singapore, which has seen daily coronavirus cases in the thousands despite having a high vaccination rate.

The city-state of 5.45 million people has been reporting record daily Covid-19 infections of more than 3,000 over the past few days, though almost all the cases are asymptomatic or mild. About 83 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, one of the world's highest rates.

People wearing facemasks as a precaution against the spread of covid-19 cross a street decorated with festival lights ahead of Deepavali in Little India district.
People in Singapore's Little India distrcit prepare to celebrate Deepavali. Source: Getty Images

On Tuesday, Singapore saw 2976 new cases and 11 deaths. Restrictions have been tightened with only two people allowed to meet up in public and working from home mandatory.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will reach a new normal and can lighten restrictions when cases stabilise, even if they stay in the hundreds.

"It will take us at least three months, and perhaps as long as six months, to get there," Mr Lee said.

"After this surge stabilises, we may still see future surges, especially if new variants emerge. We may have to tap on the brakes again if cases again grow too fast, to protect our healthcare system and healthcare workers.”

Singapore has made headlines around the world for its tough policing and tracing of the highly infectious virus, high vaccination rate and the freedoms enjoyed by its residents throughout the pandemic.

People walk past the Sydney Harbour Bridge towards the Circular Quay ferry terminal after stay-at-home orders were lifted across NSW, in Sydney,.
People walk past the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Sydney Harbour on Tuesday after restrictions were lifted. Source: Getty Images

It touted it was learning to live with coronavirus. From October 19, fully vaccinated people from eight countries, including Britain, France, Spain and the United States, will be able to enter the island without quarantining if they pass their Covid-19 tests.

NSW population spread will help minimise transmission, expert says

In contrast, NSW is not far off reaching 80 per cent of its residents over the age of 16 fully vaccinated. Monday saw Greater Sydney reopen non-essential retail, gyms and restaurants for those with two jabs.

The state also recorded 444 local cases on Wednesday and just 360 the day before.

There have been concerns from business owners and medical professionals alike about the impact reopening could have.

Patrons return to the MCA Cafe (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) in Sydney, Australia.
Patrons return to the MCA Cafe (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) in Sydney, Australia.

However, 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.

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.

Empty tables and closed restaurants seen in Chinatown, Singapore.
A man walks past closed restaurants in Chinatown, Singapore. Source: Getty Images

Dr Dantas said she is hoping NSW goes a similar route to Denmark, which has a similar population to NSW but with 85 per cent of the population vaccinated.

Denmark lifted all coronavirus restrictions on September 10, Washington Post reported. Denmark has had 57 deaths from Covid in the past 28 days, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why Singapore's outbreak isn't as bad as it looks

Professor Bennett, Deakin University's Chair in Epidemiology, told Yahoo News Australia “a very positive indicator” in Singapore is that there are only 42 people in the ICU and a low hospitalisation rate. NSW currently has 150 patients in intensive care.

“Hospitalisation rate is about 6.5 per cent of active cases compared with just over 10 per cent in southern NSW now with some cases still there from many weeks back,” she said.

“Of the NSW people in hospital, just over 20 per cent of hospitalised cases are in ICU, compared with just 2.5 per cent in Singapore.

“This is the extra protection we can expect as vaccination rates keep climbing, and so even if cases rise, hospitalisations won’t necessarily.”

with Reuters

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