Covid deaths spike, but Singapore stick to re-opening plans


By Ivan Lim
Former AJA President, Contributor to AsiaN 

SINGAPORE: The figures tell a staggering story that smacks of a runaway pandemic. However, the authorities are looking at the bigger picture and taking the explosion of the Delta mutant cases in stride.

Since mid-September, new daily caseloads have hovered between 1,000 and 3,000 cases. On Sunday, there were nine deaths out of the 2,809 cases. On Monday, 10 deaths and 2,263 cases were reported. On Tuesday 11 patients, aged between 66 and 98 died out of 2,976 infections.

The deaths, over successive days, of elderly male and female patients, including those fully and partially vaccinated have shaken the nation,

Fewer patients had previously succumbed to the   Alpha virus. The overall toll was also nowhere near the current 132,205 cases and 183 deaths.

The dramatic turn of events has raised anxieties: Some fear for the safety and health of the elder and the young as the virus rages on and hospitals beds in demand..

Others wondered whether virus surge would set back the government’s re-opening plans.

Is the multi-ministerial taskforce (MTF) tackling the pandemic on top of the situation?

On Oct 9, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appeared on national TV to assure that while the current virus surge may seem ominous, the nation was better prepared than last year to deal with the pandemic.”

The Singapore leader was banking on the nation’s Covid-19 resilience now that over 80 per cent of its 5.45 million population have got two jabs of the PfizerNBiotech /Moderna as well as Sinovac vaccines.  Many of them have also received booster shots to enhance their resistance to the virus.

The multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) tackling the pandemic has also pointed to the slower reproduction rate and doubling of cases would take longer.

PM Lee reckoned that as more people recovered from the virus infection, their higher immunity would slow down the Covid19 rampage.

Indeed, PM Lee was confident that if the Delta virus outbreaks could stabilise over time, the republic could transit into the endemic phase within three to six months.

For the South-east Asia hub, the switch from a zero-Covid strategy to one of living with the Coronavirus, like the perennial flu and dengue fever, had been dictated by the need to reopen its borders to the outside world.

The Covid-free campaign against the Alpha virus last year proved costly economically and socially. Dubbed “Circuit-Breaker, the lockdown had crippled the economy, shut down businesses, cut jobs and disrupted social activities.

The advent of the more aggressive and contagious Delta mutant has rendered Zero-Covid policy untenable in halting virus spread.

Unexpectedly, the new pivot to a Covid resilient state has exacted a heavy toll on the vulnerable elderly, especially those shun vaccination.

Many of those who fell seriously ill or died are reportedly unvaccinated.

Hence, the urgency to get the rest  of the 100,000 elderly vaccinated. The unvaccinated are 14 times more likely to fall seriously ill when hit by the Delta contagion, acording to director of medical services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak.

Statistics-wise, the Covid-19 casualties represented 0.2 per cent or 2 out of 1000 infected, according to the MOH.

The authorities have begun to nudgo people to take their vaccinations. From Wednesday (Oct 13), those who are unvaccinated would be barred from eating at hawker centres and coffee shops as well as from entering shopping malls.

This official ”differientation” did not go down well with everyone. Netizens criticised its as unfair discrimination, especially against elderly folks, who have medical reasons for not getting vaccinated.

.But the authorities are now expecting people to do their part in keeping the virus at bay.

“You are on your look-out now,” a netizen responded to what seemed the government’s shifting responsible to individuals.

Indeed, under the new health protocols,, individuals are to use DIY Covid-19 swab test kits to check their health.

They were not to rush to hospitals at the first sign of positive Covid 19 infection. Instead, they are to stay at home and recover.

This is to forestall any run on the hospitals, Community and Special Covid-19 Treatment facilities are in place to cope with any Covid 19 crisis..

.Experts advising the taskforce have not rule out daily outbreaks breaching the 10,000 threshold.

“If we could keep it under 6,000 daily cases, we are fine,” said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease expert from the Rophi Clinic at the Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital told the media.

An upbeat PM Lee said the government, ready and able to face any escalation of the virus outbreaks, is pushing ahead with its re-opening of borders.

.After Germany and Brunei, the island-nation has extended the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme to – Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and United States from Oct 19 and to South Korea from Nov.15.

Despite some popular misgivings, the Singapore authorities are  proceeding, according to script, towards a brave new order of living fearlessly, if dangerously with, to boot, a potentially mutating Coronavirus.

Search in Site