SINGAPORE — The first Covid-19 infection wave that Singapore has experienced since transitioning to Dorscon green is waning, although the more than 300 Covid-19 patients currently hospitalised have added significant workload to the hospitals, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Tuesday (May 9).
He said the wave peaked about two weeks ago at an estimated 4,000 infections per day. It has since subsided to about 3,000 infections a day.
He added that Singapore has weathered the wave without imposing any further public health measures, and that this public health posture is only possible if Singapore residents continue to take their Covid-19 vaccinations.
Singapore did not transition to Dorscon green because Covid-19 became a milder disease, as it remains a dangerous disease, he said.
But the country's population resilience has strengthened due to vaccinations, boosters to keep them updated and recovery from infections, which enabled the nation to treat it as an endemic disease, said Ong.
So it is of critical importance that people continue to take vaccinations based on the Ministry of Health's latest recommendations to keep the level of resilience high, he stressed.
Based on data for the first four months of 2023, seniors aged 60 and above continued to be more vulnerable to developing severe illnesses if infected with Covid-19, Mr Ong said. But the incidence of severe illness was lower among those who had stayed updated on their vaccinations.
For instance, among those in this age group who were unvaccinated, about 7.5 per cent developed severe illnesses and had to be hospitalised, said Ong.
"For those with minimum protection, that is, three doses of mRNA or Novavax vaccines or four doses of Sinovac, the rate of severe illnesses was about four per cent," he said.
For those with minimum protection and kept their vaccination updated, meaning their last shot was less than 12 months ago, the incidence of severe illnesses was even lower, at 3.4 per cent, Ong said.
Unfortunately, despite the benefits of vaccinations, among seniors aged 60 and above, the proportion of those who are updated with their vaccinations has been declining from 58 per cent in the beginning of this year to 50 per cent now, said Ong.
"If you belong to a vulnerable segment of the population and choose not to take vaccinations, there is a significant chance that you will get infected at some point by the Omicron variants, which can cause severe illnesses," he stressed.
On Tuesday, Ong also gave an update on myocarditis cases in response to a question from Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC).
Myocarditis can occur when taking Covid-19 vaccines, although this is very rare and it tends to affect young males aged 12 to 30 years.
The local incidence of vaccine-related myocarditis in this age group is very low, at about one in 100,000 doses, and is even lower at 0.1 in 100,000 doses with the latest bivalent mRNA formulations, said Mr Ong.
As at April 27, 2023, out of more than 17 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in Singapore, there were 160 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis linked to the vaccines.
Some 32 per cent of these cases had initial symptoms reported within one day of vaccination, another 20 per cent reported within two days and another 24 per cent reported within one week.
The majority of cases of myocarditis from vaccination are generally mild and respond to treatment, said Ong.
As at April 27, 2023, about 340 Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (Vifap) applications were cardiology-related, of which 81 were approved and financial assistance had been extended to the applicants.
Myocarditis was picked up as a safety signal and reported in June 2021. A look back at Vifap applications from before June 2021 did not identify anyone with myocarditis. At present, the Covid-19 vaccines are not known to be causally associated with any other cardiac conditions other than myocarditis, Ong said.
ALSO READ: Number of people hospitalised for Covid-19 climbing since March
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.