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18 more deaths added to Singapore’s official COVID-19 tally after revision by MOH

Singapore's official COVID-19 death toll for 2021 now stands at 821. MOH said some of the fatalities were not reported.

18 more deaths added to Singapore’s official COVID-19 tally after revision by MOH

An ambulance leaves the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore on Apr 3, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Eighteen more deaths have been added to Singapore’s tally of COVID-19 fatalities last year after a revision by the Ministry of Health (MOH). 

MOH said on Monday (Aug 1) that the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in 2021 has been revised from 803 to 821. The adjustment follows an “annual reconciliation exercise” after the Registry of Births and Deaths finalised its report for last year, said MOH. 

“Doctors are required to notify MOH of COVID-19 deaths as soon as possible. Based on the doctors’ submissions, MOH publishes the number of COVID-19 deaths on our website every day,” said the Health Ministry. 

Under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act 2021, doctors are also required to report information on the cause of death to the Registry of Births and Deaths. The report on Registration of Births and Deaths for the preceding year is finalised and publicised every June.

Overall, 18 deaths were added to the Health Ministry’s official COVID-19 death count for 2021 following the reconciliation exercise. This represents a 2.2 per cent increase from the previous count. 

There is no difference in the number of COVID-19 deaths for 2020, said MOH.

Of the 18 deaths, eight were not reported to MOH but were reported to the Registry. MOH said that it will remind doctors to report all COVID-19 fatalities to the ministry.

Eleven deaths were reported to MOH, but COVID-19 was not indicated as the underlying cause of death in these notifications, as doctors report the cause of death based on available medical information at the point of reporting.

These deaths were subsequently reported to the Registry with COVID-19 as the cause of death after further review by the doctors.

One death was in MOH's COVID-19 count for 2021, and in the Registry’s count for 2022. This was due to differences in the date of reporting to MOH and the Registry because the death occurred on Dec 31, 2021. MOH said it will include the case in the 2022 count instead of the 2021 count.

MOH added that five deaths from the report on registration of births and deaths were people diagnosed with COVID-19 while overseas, and who died after returning to Singapore. 

“These deaths will not be included as MOH’s count only includes deaths from COVID-19 diagnosed in Singapore,” said the Health Ministry.

“We expect to make annual adjustments to the COVID-19 death count in July, following the publication of the report on registration of births and deaths.”

As of noon on Monday, Singapore has reported 1,520 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

POPULATION PROTECTION

Health Ministry Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Monday that an estimated 60 per cent of Singapore residents have likely caught COVID-19 before, but this does not mean the country now has “herd immunity”.

On record, there are about 1.7 million reported cases, which is about 30 per cent of the population.

Mr Ong said MOH systematically monitors blood samples from routine polyclinic cases and other healthy volunteers for signs of previous infection.

“From these samples, we estimate about 60 per cent of local residents are likely to have been infected with COVID-19," he added.

By and large, however, scientists around the world do not think herd immunity is achievable because the virus will continue to mutate, escape the protection of vaccines and infect people, he said.

What is achievable is “population protection against severe illness” through vaccinations, the minister added.

When asked when the protection from vaccines will start to wane, Mr Ong said MOH’s empirical data showed that after 10 months, the protective effect of three doses of mRNA vaccines remains strong in preventing severe illness.

That is why as of now, the recommendation is for those who are 80 years old and above to receive a second booster shot to better protect against severe disease. 

While the protection for this age group is not waning, it is generally lower than younger age groups, he said.

The Health Minister added that the way MOH reports the number of cases will change.

“In the past, we report the number of patients who have been infected every day, so a patient who has been infected twice, we count them only once, and there are very few of them. With more reinfections, from today, we will report the infection episodes instead,” Mr Ong said.

“This will be a more accurate reflection of the pandemic situation.”

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Source: CNA/zl(mi)

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