S'pore will not reach herd immunity: Lawrence Wong

Covid-19 cases will spike when economy reopens.

Belmont Lay | August 20, 2021, 03:38 PM

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Even with a high vaccination rate, Singapore will not reach herd immunity this Covid-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said during a virtual multi-ministry taskforce conference on Thursday, Aug. 19.

He called the upcoming fight a "hard slog" and explained that infection rates cannot be expected to just drop off over time.

Wong warned: "The path towards being a Covid resilient nation is going to be a long and hard slog. Even with very high vaccination rates, we are not going to reach herd immunity, where the outbreak just fizzles out."

Return to normality with few deaths

Instead, the aim for Singapore is to move towards the end of the pandemic and normality with "minimum death and damage" as a society, he added.

But such a plan will see cases rise and the country must be mentally prepared for this outcome as activities resume and the economy reopens in a controlled manner.

He said: "We are feeling the stones as we cross the river."

Wong added that Singapore has been able to manage the pandemic by keeping fatalities low and keeping hospitals functioning in the past 19 months.

More deaths expected if elderly remain unvaccinated

Reuters reported on Aug. 17 that as many as 1,000 in Singapore may die in the next year or two if vaccinations among the elderly do not improve.

The figures were derived from the National University of Singapore (NUS) infectious disease modelling expert Alex Cook.

Delta variant infections

So far, a number of the nine Covid-19 related deaths in Singapore this month were found to be linked to the Delta variant or its minor mutations, Ministry of Health director of medical services Kenneth Mak said.

But he did not specify the number of such patients.

This finding was based on the fatalities who had undergone phylogenetic testing.

Reporting of Covid-19 deaths in Singapore are accompanied by figures pertaining to the efficacy of vaccination.

On Aug. 18, MOH said the percentage of unvaccinated who became severely ill or died was 8.8 per cent, while that for the fully vaccinated was 1.5 per cent over the last 28 days.

History of Delta variant in Singapore

The Delta variant has become the dominant variant circulating in Singapore since May, with the first case here detected on Feb. 26.

According to the GISAID (global initiative on sharing avian influenza data), there were 2,913 cases of the Delta variant here as of Aug. 11.

All infections in Singapore in the previous four weeks have been attributed to the variant.

But there have been no cases of the Delta Plus variant from the phylogenetic testing done for all infections here as of Aug. 6.

The Delta Plus is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first identified in India.

It has become the dominant strain behind recent surges of infections worldwide.

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