All 5 cases in ICU unvaccinated; 'long COVID' in Singapore being studied

MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak (PHOTO: MCI)
MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak. (PHOTO: MCI)

SINGAPORE — All five COVID-19 cases who are in the intensive care unit (ICU) are unvaccinated, a senior Ministry of Health (MOH) official said on Thursday (24 June).

Speaking at a multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 virtual news conference, MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said, “It reinforces our concern that (for) those who are not vaccinated, if infected, may get more aggressive cause of disease, a more severe cause of disease, may require oxygen supplementation, or even ICU care.”

Associate Professor Mak’s comments come a day after the MOH’s daily COVID report on Wednesday indicated that of the 141 hospitalised cases, five of them are in critical condition in the ICU, up from two cases a day before.

He also drove home the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 as seen in the recent Bukit Merah and Red Hill clusters, where seniors aged 60 and above made up almost half of the cases.

In the biggest cluster in the area at 115 Bukit Merah View market and food centre, only 36.7 per cent of 82 cases were fully vaccinated," said Prof Mak.

“This reinforces the call that we've been giving – for all who have yet to be vaccinated, to step forward and make use of the opportunities that are coming up to register and be vaccinated. Our seniors, in particular, will be hard hit if the clusters increase, or if more clusters like we see in Bukit Merah breakthrough in our community," he added.

His call for members of the public in Singapore to get vaccinated against the infection was echoed by taskforce co-chairs during the press conference, as the government tackles an "ambitious target" to fully vaccinate two-thirds of the population by National Day on 9 August.

"While it is ambitious, it is another interim milestone. In fact, we need to get more people fully vaccinated than this two-third milestone," said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung during the press conference.

'Long COVID' being studied in Singapore

In response to a reporter's question on the long-term effects of the coronavirus on infected cases, Prof Mak said that the issue is being studied by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

The centre has been following up with all recovered cases in the public hospitals and they may be ready soon to provide further information on the "prevalence of 'long COVID' syndrome in Singapore", he added.

Prof Mak noted that there remains much uncertainty about the condition, which typically refers to symptoms of the disease that persist more than four weeks after being diagnosed.

Recent studies in the UK and US have found that lingering post-viral symptoms range from fatigue, breathing difficulties to muscle aches and chest pain.

"We still don't have a firm grip on terms of what causes 'long COVID' syndrome, how it manifests, and how we can address the degree of disability that some recovered cases have as a result of long COVID syndrome," said Prof Mak.

"This is one of the consequences of COVID-19 infection and reinforces the concern that (it) is not something just like a common seasonal flu. There are some patients who have severe outcomes, permanent disabilities to some extent."

He also pointed out that there are anecdotal reports that have suggested that vaccination against COVID-19 provides some remedy for those suffering from "long COVID" symptoms after having the jab.

"This may potentially be another reason to encourage even recovered cases to seek that vaccination. But as more clinical information becomes available, we will try to bring this out to the media," said Prof Mak.

As of Wednesday, 5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccination had been administered to residents in Singapore, with 3 million people amongst the population having received at least one dose, or about 53 per cent of the population. About 36 per cent of the population have received two doses.

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