Health

Singapore living with Covid-19


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believes that Covid-19 will not disappear but become a seasonal pathogen and that the country must prepare for a long-term coexistence with the virus.

The comments were made by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on May 31, when he announced the country’s new anti-epidemic strategy. Accordingly, people need to determine what life in the “new normal” is like and what Singapore will do to adapt and develop with the new situation.

The virus will continue to spread in some areas of the world for years to come, causing small outbreaks in Singapore, Mr. Long said.

Last week, Singapore’s Finance Minister Hoang Tuan Tai and chairman of the task force against Covid-19 said that Singapore had planned for the possibility that Covid-19 would turn into an endemic pathogen.

Endemic diseases are diseases that frequently occur in a community, with infection rates maintained at predictable levels such as influenza, measles, HIV… Professor Paul Tambyah, President of the Society for Microbiology Clinical and Infections Asia Pacific, e.g. “Most recently, the 2009 H1N1 A flu epidemic became endemic within a year and a half”. According to him, Covid-19 can be like a common cold, affecting mainly the elderly.

Completely eradicating a disease is not easy. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has only confirmed that two diseases have been eliminated worldwide: smallpox and rinderpest. Both are repelled by widespread vaccination.

Professor Dale Fisher, head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Epidemic Alert and Response Network, said that when Covid-19 becomes endemic, it will not “go away”.

“The virus will not be destroyed and continue to exist. Those who need to be hospitalized are people who have not been vaccinated,” Mr. Fisher said. However, the professor stressed that this does not mean that Covid-19 only causes a mild illness like the flu. He pointed out that most Covid-19 patients experience mild symptoms, but millions have died. More than 3.7 million people have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic broke out in early 2020, compared with an estimated annual flu death toll of 290,000 to 650,000.

Mr Fisher commented that the introduction of the vaccine was a turning point for the pandemic, helping to turn Covid-19 into a “mild illness”. As more people are vaccinated, restrictions may be eased.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at the Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore, said vaccination is an “indispensable strategy” when living with the virus. According to him, people who have been fully vaccinated should get a booster shot to strengthen their immunity. Others may get an annual vaccination like the flu shot.

According to Professor Tambyah, it is difficult to predict when Covid-19 will become endemic globally. Dr. Leong commented: “Singapore will enter the phase of living with the epidemic when it reaches a high vaccination rate, about 70% to 90% of the population, and the number of infections does not overwhelm the ability to trace. Treatment. Covid-19 with better medical equipment, and highly effective monoclonal antibody methods that can kill the virus.”

However, the possibility of another pandemic cannot be ruled out in the future. Professor Tambyah said: “As long as we invade the territory of wild animals and do all kinds of experiments, the risk of disease from another corona virus remains.”

As of June 1, Singapore has injected more than 4 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, of which more than 40% of the population has received at least one dose, over 30% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Vaccination deployment speed reaches 100,000 doses a day. The country expects 70% of the population to be vaccinated by the end of July.

An employee simulates using Breathonix’s nCoV breath test machine in Singapore. Image: Reuters

Mai Dung (According to the Channel News Asia)

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