SINGAPORE – As international evidence indicate the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is likely to be more transmissible yet less severe than the Delta variant, and that vaccines especially boosters help retain substantial protection against hospitalisations, Singapore will adjust its approach in managing the spread of Omicron.
In line with its updated understanding of the variant, effective Feb 1, 2022 the republic’s Ministry of Health (MOH) will make vaccination a prerequisite for the approval of new applications for and renewal of existing long-term passes, work passes, as well as permanent residences.
Other adjustments include the lifting of travel restrictions on Bostwana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe effective Monday (Dec 27).
Singapore has detected 546 confirmed Omicron cases as of Dec 25, comprising 443 imported cases and 103 local cases.
“In the last week, we have had 13, unlinked community Omicron cases and 78 Omicron cases from local linked community transmission,” MOH said in a statement late Sunday adding that the Omicron variant has now been detected in over 110 countries, mainly in Africa and Europe.
Current observations from affected countries or regions suggest that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than currently circulating variants, and the Omicron variant has overtaken the Delta variant as the predominant variant in numerous countries, such as the United Kingdom and Denmark.
However, MOH noted that available data thus far suggests that Omicron infections face reduced risks of hospitalisation and severe disease compared to Delta infections.
Locally, MOH said its Omicron cases have so far not been severe as well, with none requiring intensive care or oxygen supplementation, although this could be partially due to most cases being fully vaccinated and from younger age groups.”
Preliminary estimates from overseas studies also indicate that two doses of mRNA vaccines reduce the risk of symptomatic infection from Omicron by about 35 per cent, it added.
“The risk is further reduced to about 75 per cent lower for individuals with a primary and booster mRNA regimen,” the ministry said, adding that these statistics refer to protection against symptomatic infection.