SINGAPORE - Singapore has been in a Covid-19 wave in the past month, with the estimated number of daily infections rising from about 1,400 a month ago to 4,000 last week.
About three in 10 of the current cases are reinfections; higher than the 20-25 per cent seen during the last wave, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said.
While the number of cases is climbing, there is no evidence that the current strains cause more severe illnesses, he added.
The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients, up from 80 to 220 over the past month, is also far below what was seen during the crisis period. ICU admissions have also remained stable and low, with fewer than 10 Covid-19 patients at any one time over the past month, Mr Ong said.
He provided the updates on Friday when he spoke at the National Healthcare Group’s population health collective annual workplan seminar.
Mr Ong pointed out that while the current wave is not a severe wave, the additional caseloads do add to the heavy workload of the hospitals.
Speaking to community partners and general practitioners in the audience, he urged them to help educate their family, friends and patients to stay home and wear a mask if unwell, and get vaccinated annually if they are vulnerable or over the age of 60.
He also addressed comments by some people who have attributed the recent rise in local infections mostly to travellers bringing in the virus.
“But the understanding that this caused a rise in infection is incorrect. The virus is endemic, which means it is always circulating within our community. In such a situation, what drives our local waves is not imported infections, but re infection of existing individuals in the community,” said Mr Ong.
When the protection against infection from past infections or vaccination wanes over time, people get re-infected and that causes the number of cases to rise, he added.
The Health Ministry is continuing to do genetic sequencing of viral samples. There are now multiple variants circulating – XBB, XBB.1.5, XBB.1.9, XBB.1.16, XBB.2.3, BN.1, CH.1.1 – without a clear dominant strain.
The most important aspect of any infection wave is the severity of symptoms and whether patients become hospitalised. There has been no evidence showing that any of the current XBB strains cause more severe illnesses, Mr Ong said.
He added: “What is happening is a clear demonstration of how far we have come. Even during a Covid-19 infection wave like now, we continue to live life normally, not pre-occupied over infection numbers, and not constantly talking about it. This is what endemicity should look like.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.