SINGAPORE — The latest spike in Covid cases in Singapore may be starting to peak — but the public needs to be informed about vaccinations, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told CNBC on Thursday.
Covid infections seem to have spiked in the past week as seven-day moving average it fell from 7,870 on 12 December to 6,530 on 19 December.
“It may get worse before it gets better. All indications [are] that we may have peaked. Well, that’s probably about it,” Ong told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
A new Covid strain, variant JN.1, classified as a “variant of interest” by World Health Organisationaccounts for “overwhelming majority” of the country’s latest wave of infections. WHO argues that the available evidence indicates that the variant does not present “additional risks to public health” increased compared to other circulating variants.
Asked if it was a surprise that the variant appeared to be “less impactful” than previous strains, Ong said the new Covid variants are obviously not mild, but vaccinations have helped the country deal with the surge.
TOPSHOT – People walk by as the city skyline is reflected in a puddle left over from past rain in Singapore on February 8, 2022. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Roslan Rahman | Afp | Getty Images
“The virus has not become milder… We have become stronger because we got infected, we did the vaccination,” Ong said.
“But all these antidotes are going to wear off. Twelve months, 18 months, 24 months, they’re going to wear off… We’re going to have to prepare for Covid to get more serious unless we keep vaccinating,” he said.
In addition to vaccination and booster shots – the country’s “primary defense” against Covid – the health ministry has also urged the public to wear masks in crowded places, even if they are not sick, especially at the airport and other indoor places.
According to the ministry, hospitalization rates are still “significantly lower” among those who are up-to-date with their vaccines compared to those who are not.
Ong argued that the number of hospitalizations remains a key indicator to monitor. Average daily Covid hospitalizations rose to 350 from 225, showed a report published on December 15.
“I think the most important metric to watch right now is how many [hospital] the beds are taken,” he said.
Singapore emerged from the acute phase of Covid in February and entered the endemic canon. The island nation then lifted mandatory mask use on public transport and in indoor healthcare facilities, among other community measures such as working from home and limits on group sizes.