SINGAPORE — The current COVID-19 wave in Singapore has peaked two weeks ago, and the number of daily cases has decreased to around 3,000 daily, down from an estimated 4,000 daily cases last month.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung provided this update on the COVID-19 situation in the city-state in Parliament on Tuesday (9 May).
He noted that more than 300 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalised, adding a "significant workload" to hospitals. However, this number is just a fraction of the figure at the peak of the pandemic crisis.
He also added that the number should fall in the coming weeks.
Ong said the three key strains circulating in the country - XBB.1.9, XBB.1.16, and XBB.2.3 - account for about a quarter of all current infections.
While XBB.1.16, also known as Arcturus, has been re-designated as a "variant of interest" by the World Health Organization, Ong said there is currently no evidence that any strains have a clear growth advantage over the others, or can lead to more severe cases of illness.
He reassured the public that his ministry would continue to monitor the characteristics of the variants closely.
Seniors urged to keep up with vaccinations
Ong also expressed concern over fewer seniors keeping up to date with their vaccinations.
He revealed that the proportion of people aged 60 and above who have kept up to date with their vaccinations has fallen to 50 per cent, down from 58 per cent at the beginning of the year.
He stressed the importance of vaccinations in protecting against severe illness, especially given the highly infectious nature of the current Omicron variant.
Ong noted a common misconception among seniors and the public that they do not need further vaccinations if they do not often leave their homes.
"The current Omicron variants are highly infectious, and we no longer impose social restrictions. This means even if you do not go out of your home, it can find its way to your home, through visiting family members or anyone you may come into contact with," he added.
The minister also addressed concerns about the risk of side effects from the vaccines, stating that the incidence of severe adverse reactions in Singapore is very low, at about seven in 100,000 doses. The risk is even lower at one in 100,000 doses with the latest bivalent mRNA formulations.
He warned that if the trend of falling vaccinations continues, it could weaken the population's resilience against COVID-19 over time and make the country vulnerable to the virus again.
Concerns over myocarditis and pericarditis
In response to questions from Jurong GRC Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng on myocarditis or heart inflammation following COVID-19 vaccination, Ong stated that as of 27 April, there were 160 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis related to the vaccines in Singapore, out of over 17 million administered doses.
Of these 160 cases, 32 per cent reported initial symptoms within one day of vaccination, another 20 per cent within two days, and another 24 per cent within one week.
Ong reassured the House that the majority of vaccine-related myocarditis cases are generally mild and respond to treatment.
He also noted that, as of 27 April, about 340 applications for the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP) were cardiology-related, with 81 of those applications approved and financial assistance extended to the applicants.
The VIFAP provides one-time financial assistance to individuals who have experienced serious side effects that a doctor has determined to be related to COVID-19 vaccines administered under Singapore's national vaccine program.
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