Rising cases and deaths test Singapore’s pivot to treat Covid as endemic

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  • The rise in Covid cases – most of whom have no or mild symptoms – prompted Singapore’s government to tighten social-distancing measures starting this week.
  • Ashley St John, associate professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, said many of those cases were detected because Singapore is “monitoring too much for Covid” through testing.
  • Paul Tambya, chairman of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party and an infectious disease expert, said the government was “hesitating” to move away from a “zero COVID” strategy.

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SINGAPORE – Rising COVID-19 infections and deaths are testing Singapore’s long-term strategy of endemic treatment of the coronavirus.

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Health ministry data shows that about 82% of the city-state’s population has been fully vaccinated. But a rise in Covid cases – most of whom have no or mild symptoms – prompted the government to tighten social-distancing measures starting this week.

Ashley St John, associate professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, said many of those cases were detected because Singapore is “monitoring too much for Covid” through testing. But the country may have to change its ways as it wants to live with the virus, she said.

CNBC Health & Science

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St. John told CNBC’s “Street Science Asia” on Friday: “Other things that we are doing such as social distancing, they may be useful for a period of time to help control these surges in cases. “

“But we have to really start thinking about how we’re going to go about this: it’s a prevention and eradication strategy for COVID in our community toward living with the virus, but we’re going to make it. What kind of measures can be taken to be less severe for those who are exposed to it,” she said.

health care system under pressure

Singapore’s Ministry of Health said on Thursday that Over 28,000 covid infections detected in the last 28 days. Of them, 98.1% had no or mild symptoms, while 0.1% died, the ministry said.

A total of 1,360 cases are in hospitals as of Thursday afternoon, the ministry said. Of them, 204 are cases of critical illness requiring oxygen supplements and 34 are in the intensive care unit.

Cumulatively, the Southeast Asian country has reported over 96,500 Covid cases and 95 deaths, health ministry data shows.

While recently announcing the tightening of COVID measures, the health ministry last week said that there has been a rapid increase in infections. "Put a strain" on the health care system. It added that many infected persons with mild symptoms sought medical attention in hospitals, even if it was not necessary.

The Singapore government has started allowing infected people with mild symptoms to recover at home if - among other criteria - They are fully vaccinated. It acknowledged that protocols for home recovery are new and could be improved.

alternative plan

Over the past few months, the government has at times eased and tightened COVID measures as the highly contagious delta variant spreads in the country.

According to the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, it has shown "hesitation" in the government moving away from a "zero COVID" strategy. The SDP has no elected members in the Parliament.

"The government is moving away from a zero-Covid strategy in principle, but the action is a bit hesitant," Paul Tambya, SDP president and an infectious disease expert, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" on Friday. .

the party Pandemic exit plan proposed, stopping testing of asymptomatic vaccinated individuals outside of contact tracing, and removing "blanket closures and restrictions".

Tambiah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said the plan seeks to ensure that health care resources are focused on vulnerable people, those with serious illness and those who prevent deaths.

“There is a concern right now that too many asymptomatic individuals are being tested, a lot of blanket closures are being done and these are diverting resources that should really ideally be focused on the sick,” he said.

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