People walk at a pedestrian crossing along the Orchard Road shopping district in Singapore on September 7, 2021.
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SINGAPORE – Authorities in Singapore are tightening Covid-19 measures as infections in the country soar to new records – but two health experts told CNBC they weren’t too concerned.
On Friday, when stricter measures were announced again, the country’s health care system and its staff were under strain due to an increase in cases, and there was a need to slow transmission to avoid seeing more infections in vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the Health Ministry said on Friday. .
Over the next four weeks, the group size for social gatherings will be reduced to two out of five people, and working from home will be the default setting.
However, medical experts told CNBC that the latest wave of the virus may not be a bad thing because Singaporeans are largely immune.
Many Covid-19 patients have avoided severe illness and will gain more protection against infection in the future as the antibodies fight the virus, according to Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Su Soi Hok School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.
About 82% of Singaporeans have received two doses of the Covid vaccine. Health authorities said Sunday that 98% of infected individuals have had no or mild symptoms in the past 28 days.
The number of cases may remain high for a few months, Teo said, but the “vast majority” will be well protected by vaccines and not become seriously ill.
“For these people, infection will not have any short- or long-term consequences for their health, but it may also trigger a normal immune response that reduces the chance of subsequent infection,” he said in an email.
Possible benefits of natural infection
Allowing the virus to move slowly through the population “isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Ooi Eng Eong, a professor in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS College of Medicine.
The two main vaccines used in Singapore were developed by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, and both use messenger RNA technology.
mRNA vaccines instruct the body to produce a so-called spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes Covid-19. It is harmless, but it stimulates the immune system to develop antibodies so that the body can better fight the infection if it is exposed to the real virus.
“If we had a natural infection, our immune system would be able to recognize a larger part of the virus” as opposed to just the spike protein, Oy said, adding that it could make a person more resilient against future variants.
He said Singapore could reap the benefits of natural infection experienced in some parts of Europe and North America, but in reverse order.
“Instead of infection followed by vaccination, we will go for vaccination followed by infection, which I think is better because of it [infections] It will be mostly light.”
“Those [countries] Which had high rates of illness last year paid the price for the high death rates, he told CNBC.
More new variants?
When asked whether widespread transmission of the Covid virus could lead to the emergence of new variants, Oe acknowledged that it is difficult to predict what will happen.
However, he noted, future variants would have to compete with the “highly transmissible” delta variant, the strain prevalent worldwide.
“Delta is very hard to beat,” he said.
He said there were also concerns about mu, a new kind of interest, but he couldn’t take off because the delta was too strong.
“Having said that, I think the wise thing to do is to prepare for something better than deltas to eventually emerge, or that a new alternative could get away with vaccination-induced immunity,” Uwe said.
Local Covid situation
Singapore’s Ministry of Health said the number of severe cases of COVID-19 remains within expectations.
There were 172 cases requiring oxygen supplementation, and 30 cases in the intensive care unit (ICU) as of Sunday. The government said the intensive care unit capacity could be increased to 1,600 beds if needed.
The two professors who spoke to CNBC were divided about whether new restrictions were needed.
Oi said that the current wave of the virus “Within the limits” of Singapore’s capacity. He added that the new restrictions were “unnecessary” and would slow down efforts to cope with the disease.
While Teo agreed that the situation was not getting worse, he said the tightening measures were necessary to provide “breathing space” for Singapore to make adjustments to its operating and hospitalization protocols.
Teo said hospital beds are filling up because of the country’s “extremely cautious” approach, not because too many people need acute medical care.
He pointed out that the long-term plan against Covid is a combination of vaccination and natural infection to provide protection without overcrowding hospitals, adding that he does not expect an increase in the death rate, but the absolute numbers can be expected to rise.
As of Sunday, Singapore has reported 87,892 cases of COVID-19 and 78 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
– CNBC’s Corey Stage and Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.