07/27/2021 / By Nolan Barton
Vaccinated individuals accounted for three-quarters of Singapore’s Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the last four weeks, putting a dent in the country’s vaccination program.
Singapore, which has been distributing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, has already vaccinated nearly 75 percent of its 5.7 million people – the world’s second-highest rate behind the United Arab Emirates. Half of the country’s population is fully vaccinated.
Of Singapore’s 1,096 locally transmitted infections in the last 28 days, 484 or about 44 percent were in fully vaccinated people while 30 percent were partially vaccinated and just over 25 percent were in unvaccinated individuals, according to data provided by the government Thursday, July 22.
The data also showed that infections in the last 14 days among vaccinated people older than 61 stood at about 88 percent, higher than the figure of just over 70 percent for the younger group.
Linfa Wang, a professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, said elderly people had been shown to have weaker immune responses upon vaccination.
In Israel, which also has a high vaccination rate, about half of the 46 patients hospitalized in severe condition by early July had been vaccinated, and the majority were from risk groups. (Related: “Breakthrough” coronavirus cases still being reported, some even dying despite being fully vaccinated.)
Beginning Thursday, Singapore banned restaurant dining and gatherings of more than two people as the country reverted to Phase 2, also known as heightened alert.
Both indoor and outdoor food and beverage establishments, including hawker centers and food courts, will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery options during this period. The restrictions will last until Aug. 18. Just 10 days before the start of restrictions, the government allowed residents to dine in groups of five.
The country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a press release that people should continue to limit their overall number of social gatherings to not more than two per day. Each household can also receive only two distinct visitors per day. This does not apply to grandchildren who are being cared for daily by their grandparents.
Work-from-home will remain the default at workplaces and social gatherings at the workplace will not be allowed. Employers should continue to stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace and implement flexible working hours.
Strenuous indoor exercise classes are also not allowed. Other activities that require masks to be off – including personalized services such as facials, saunas and make-up services, singing and the playing of wind and brass instruments – are also banned.
MOH said these restrictions will not apply to medical and dental consultations, but non-medical facial treatments will not be exempted from these restrictions
Singapore’s daily new case numbers are only a fraction of those reported elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but the tightening of measures just days after easing them is a setback for an Asian business hub eager to move on from the pandemic. (Related: Singapore to stop counting coronavirus cases, will rely solely on vaccines in misguided attempt to curb infection rates.)
While the country has one of the world’s lowest fatality rates from the coronavirus pandemic, its people have not been spared the roller-coaster ride of on-again, off-again social gathering restrictions every time an outbreak occurs.
“We have to make this pre-emptive tightening so that we can cut back on our overall activity levels and slow down the transmission,” said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the country’s coronavirus taskforce.
“The objective now is to buy us time so that we can vaccinate more people, especially our seniors.”
Wong said the tighter restrictions will be reviewed in two weeks, and the task force will decide whether to update the measures based on the COVID-19 situation at that point. Once the situation stabilizes, Singapore will have more lenient measures for those vaccinated, Wong said.
Singapore has ramped up testing after clusters of infections involving karaoke lounge operations that are notorious for facilitating prostitution and gambling. They were temporarily allowed to operate as restaurants.
The country has reported more than 63,000 coronavirus infections overall, the bulk of those linked to outbreaks in dormitories of migrant workers last year.
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