COVID-19: New wave of infections to be expected this year-end, says Ong Ye Kung

Pedestians cross a bridge in the scenic Marina Bay area in SIngapore.
Pedestians cross a bridge in the scenic Marina Bay area in SIngapore. (PHOTO: Joseph Nair/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — With more people travelling in and out of the country, Singaporeans should expect a new wave of COVID-19 infections amid the year-end holidays and festive seasons, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (4 December).

The Straits Times reported Mr Ong as saying during a Chinese Development Assistance Council event at Nanyang Junior College that, while there are bound to be more infections, it is not something the city-state has not seen before.

"This year alone, we have seen three infection waves which were all quite big. The first two were Omicron: BA.2, then BA.5 and then XBB," he told reporters.

“So there will be a new wave, but it is not something that we have not seen before.”

Coped with 3 infection waves this year

Singapore had dealt with the BA.2 Omicron wave in March, and its BA.5 sub-variant also led to a second wave of infections in June and July.

Then in October and November, the city-state faced another wave of infections arising from the XBB variant.

Mr Ong said that it is important to monitor if a new variant of concern is emerging overseas, especially during this winter period in the Northern Hemisphere.

He added that the European Union's drug agency warned in September that new COVID-19 variants could emerge during winter this year, and such new variants might end up being closer to the Omicron strains, which have largely been overtaken by the BA.4 and BA.5 types.

Mr Ong also said that events in China will matter, especially when the country opens up on its zero-COVID policy.

"If they do so, then there are bound to be more infections. When that happens, given the density and enormous population of China, there are bound to be new variants,” he told The Straits Times.

7-day moving average of local case at 1,007

Since COVID-19 restrictions were eased in August, it has no longer been mandatory to wear masks except at healthcare facilities, residential care homes and on public transport.

The Ministry of Health has encouraged individuals to continue wearing masks when in crowded places, or when visiting or interacting with vulnerable people. There is also no group size limit for social gatherings and no limit on the number of visitors per household.

Over the last 28 days, 43,471 people have been infected with COVID-19. Of these, 99.7 per cent had mild or no symptoms, 0.3 per cent required oxygen supplementation, 0.04 per cent were warded in the intensive care unit, and 0.02 per cent died.

As at noon on Sunday, the seven-day moving average of local cases stood at 1,007.

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