Singapore’s health minister Ong Ye Kung said vaccines that are available in the country have been far more effective than doing nothing at all, as he implored holdouts to get inoculated in the face of an expected omicron wave.
Nearly 70% of those who died from Covid-19 last year in the city-state weren’t fully vaccinated, according to Ong, despite the unvaccinated making up a far smaller percentage of the population. About 87% of the total population was vaccinated as of the end of the year, according to Ministry of Health data.
Ong, in comments made in parliament on Monday, detailed statistics from the 247 deaths recorded among fully vaccinated individuals last year. The statistics signaled mRNA vaccines possibly offer higher protection:
11 deaths per 100,000: Sinovac
7.8 deaths per 100,000: Sinopharm
6.2 deaths per 100,000: Pfizer/BioNTech
1 death per 100,000: Moderna
NOTE: Singapore has recorded 838 deaths so far out of a total of more than 285,000 cases; 802 deaths in 2021.
Ong reiterated that Singapore’s key strategy remains to live with Covid-19, which includes not locking down the country’s borders. The government “cannot over-liberalize all social activities” and remove all restrictions, though it also cannot close its borders, which will “cause tremendous suffering.” The country will respond “flexibly and appropriately to twists and turns that the pandemic situation may take,” he said.
Among other details from Ong’s remarks to Parliament:
Expects omicron variant to become dominant variant within next few weeks
Singapore’s ICU manpower has increased by 12% over the past year to about 1800, and the city-state is training about 500 more staff to assist with such operations
There are presently no plans to introduce vaccination differentiated measures for children below 12 years old in overall school settings, Ong said.
Since vaccination for younger kids kicked off over the last few weeks, there have been no serious adverse events reported so far, senior minister of state for health Janil Puthucheary also said in parliament.
Meanwhile, Singapore is committed to steadily reopening its borders and aims to set up more quarantine-free travel agreements, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said in Parliament on Monday as the Asian country battles a rising number of coronavirus cases.
Passenger traffic will improve this year at Singapore’s Changi Airport after reaching about 15% of pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2021 from 3% a year ago, though a full recovery will likely “several years,” Iswaran said.
“Our goal is to restore quarantine-free travel with more countries and regions as allowed for by the public health assessment,” he said. “We remain confident of the long-term potential of air travel and are resolutely committed to working with Changi Airport Group and airline partners to rebuild and reclaim Singapore’s status as an international air hub.”
Changi Airport, voted the world’s best airport for eight years in a row until 2020, saw traffic pick up in the latter part of 2021 after Singapore established so-called vaccinated travel lanes with about two dozen countries. They allow fully-vaccinated travelers to enter the city-state without having to quarantine. –BLOOMBERG