Singapore is currently experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, with daily cases doubling from approximately 1,000 three weeks ago to 2,000 in the past two weeks. This alarming increase can be attributed to the EG.5 and its sub-lineage HK.3 variants, which are descendants of the XBB Omicron variant and now account for over 75 percent of the cases.
Despite this concerning trend, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung emphasized that there are no plans to reintroduce social restrictions similar to those imposed during the last wave, which occurred from March to April. Singapore intends to treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease and live with it. The minister cited the absence of evidence suggesting that the new variants are more likely to cause severe illness compared to previous variants. He also noted that current vaccines remain effective in preventing severe illness caused by these new variants.
While vaccines combined with prior infection offer robust protection, Ong Ye Kung cautioned that this protection may diminish around the 12-month mark. Given this possibility, he advised individuals aged 60 and above, as well as those with underlying medical conditions, to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.
Additionally, the Health Sciences Authority in Singapore has granted full approval to Paxlovid, an oral antiviral drug for treating COVID-19. This approval, effective from October, allows the use of the tablet for treating mild to moderate COVID-19 in adult patients at high risk of progressing to severe disease. Paxlovid aims to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death among COVID-19 patients.
The situation in Singapore underscores the ongoing challenges posed by the virus and its variants, necessitating a balanced approach that considers public health measures and vaccination strategies to manage the evolving pandemic landscape.