Singapore reveals surprising plans to treat COVID like other endemic with zero transmission

Published on : Tuesday, June 29, 2021

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Singapore has recently revealed a surprising plan a deal with COVID-19 like any other endemic diseases like flu and others. The country has been remarkable in its battle with the coronavirus pandemic so far and is currently planning to fundamentally change the ways of dealing with the same.

Singapore is currently having the goal of zero transmission with the plan to dump quarantine for travellers and ending isolation for cases of close contact. It also plans to no longer announce daily case numbers. However, testing would be mandatory before going to work or shops. Senior ministers from Singapore have said the move will be a part of the “new normal” of “living with COVID”.

Singapore’s Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a statement that the bad news is that COVID-19 may never go away but the good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in midst of people. They said that the virus will continue to mutate, and thereby survive in the community.

The trio mentioned that every year, many people catch the flu and the overwhelming majority recover without needing to be hospitalised, and with little or no medication. However, they mentioned that a minority, especially the elderly and those with comorbidities, can get very ill, and some succumb. They stated that the pandemic cannot be eradicated but people can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza or chickenpox, and get on with lives.

Like most countries, Singapore had an initial peak of cases last year, topping out at 600 cases a day in mid-April. Following a smaller wave in August, COVID-19 hasn’t flared up since. However, the nation of 5.7 million, slightly larger than Sydney, has had a steady undercurrent of around 20-30 cases every day. The nation has recorded 35 deaths in total. Singapore has strict border controls in place with most countries including tests on arrival, hotel quarantine and stay at home orders.

Singapore varies the demands on travellers depending on the risk in the location where they last visited. However, all that would be eventually done away with under the plan put out by ministers Kung, Yong and Wong who make up Singapore’s COVID-19 multi-ministry task force. Singapore is also set to have given two-thirds of its residents at least one jab within weeks and to have two thirds fully vaccinated by early August.

Singapore has recorded some fully vaccinated locals getting COVID-19, but none of them have had serious symptoms. The ministers state it is likely that would continue and booster shots may be necessary. Testing would also have to be easier and quicker. Self-administered tests, such as breathalysers, should replace the uncomfortable ear bud down the back of the throat method. The ministers said COVID-19 could be “tamed” if not vanquished.

They laid out what they called “a new normal”.  People with COVID would recover at home because symptoms will mostly be mild and close contacts would be vaccinated. Because most cases will be less of an issue, the need for contact tracing and quarantining will be low. A big change would be to no longer report daily case numbers. The ministers mentioned that instead of monitoring COVID-19 infection numbers every day, they will focus on the outcomes, how many fall very sick, how many in the intensive care unit, how many need to be intubated for oxygen, and so on.

The ministers also stated that it would be a way for Singapore to navigate its way out of COVID-19, resume major events and international travel. However, the Singaporean ministers said the country was by no means at a stage where the post-COVID plan could commence and current restrictions would have to remain in place for the time being.

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