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About 45% of COVID-19 community cases in the past week were BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants: MOH

About 45% of COVID-19 community cases in the past week were BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants: MOH

People wearing protective face masks in the Central Business District in Singapore on Mar 25, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: About 45 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the community in the past week were those of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, up from 30 per cent the week before, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Monday (Jun 27). 

The BA.5 subvariant alone is estimated to have contributed to 40 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the past week. 

However, international and local data show that the two subvariants do not result in more severe outcomes as compared to the earlier Omicron strains, said MOH. 

"Coupled with our population’s high vaccination coverage, the number of severe COVID-19 infections has remained manageable."

"Our hospitals and COVID-19 Treatment Facilities are prepared to cope with the projected surge in cases. We also have contingency plans to ramp up our healthcare capacity quickly, if needed," said the Health Ministry. 

MOH added that it will not be making any changes to safe management measures at this juncture.

Masks will be still be required indoors as a key line of defence. Current vaccination-differentiated safe management measures for some higher-risk activities will also remain unchanged. 

"However, we are monitoring the situation closely, and do not rule out the need to tighten safe management measures should the need arise."

ART KIT DISTRIBUTION

The Health Ministry will be conducting a third national distribution of 10 antigen rapid test (ART) kits to each residential household from Jul 18 via post. 

"Due to the high volume of ART kits being distributed, we seek the public’s patience and understanding that it could take a few weeks for some households to receive the kits," said MOH. 

For lower-income households who require more test kits for self-testing beyond what MOH will be providing, beneficiaries of Social Service Offices and Family Service Centres may continue to request for additional kits at these locations.

Additionally, MOH will be working with the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Development Agency to provide ART kits on request to students from lower-income households.

"More information on the provision of these ART kits to be distributed by schools and educational institutions will be separately shared with students and parents," said MOH. 

BOOSTER SHOTS

MOH also reminded those who have yet to receive their booster shots to do so without delay. 

"Three doses of mRNA vaccine (two primary series plus a booster) are needed to properly protect ourselves against the Omicron variant."

Currently, there are still close to 70,000 eligible seniors aged 60 and above who have not received their third shot or first booster.

The Health Ministry also said a second booster is not recommended for all individuals. 

"This is because after the first booster, the protection against severe illness remains very strong for most people, likely for a longer term.

"However, international studies show that some groups, even after the first booster, are at an increased risk of severe disease and will be most affected by waning vaccine efficacy over time," said MOH. 

A second COVID-19 booster is recommended for individuals aged 80 years and above, those living in aged care facilities, as well as medically vulnerable persons aged 18 and above who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19. 

"For persons who do not fall into these groups, for now, there is no recommendation for them to receive a second booster. They continue to be well-protected against severe disease after their first booster dose," said MOH. 

MOH added that it will still continue to offer the second booster to all those aged 50 to 79 years.

"They can choose to take a second booster if they are concerned about their individual risk of severe COVID-19 as this is around the age where risk increases as chronic diseases start to set in."

Those who live with elderly or medically vulnerable family members, or intend to travel overseas, should consider taking up the second booster, added the ministry. 

All those who are eligible for their primary series vaccination, first booster or second booster may receive their doses by walking into any of the 10 Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres (JTVCs) located islandwide.

Residents may also book an appointment at the centres, participating Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) or polyclinics via their SMS invitation.

From Jun 27, mobile vaccination teams will also be deployed to selected heartland locations to make it more convenient for seniors to get vaccinated and boosted. 

The teams will be deployed at certain Residents’ Committee Centres at residential blocks and Community Centres. Each team will be deployed at a given site for two days before moving on to the next location, said MOH. 

"PREPARED TO RIDE IMPENDING RISE IN CASES"

Alongside the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination, MOH said it will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and the level of protection against the disease in various segments of the population.

"We will make recommendations for the second booster in younger age groups when there is a need to do so. In the meantime, such persons are strongly encouraged to receive their primary series and first booster dose if they have not yet done so," said MOH.

The Health Ministry added that Singapore remains "well positioned" to be a COVID-19 resilient nation.

"We have sufficient resources and are well prepared to ride the impending rise in cases. While MOH continues to monitor the situation closely, living safely with COVID-19 is a collective effort."

Members of the public were also urged to take the necessary precautions and remain socially responsible by observing safe management measures, conducting regular self-tests, and avoiding social interactions if one has a fever or respiratory symptoms, or tests positive for COVID-19.

On Monday, Singapore reported a total of 5,309 COVID-19 cases, of which 4,845 were locally transmitted infections. 

There have been 1,413,667 COVID-19 cases in Singapore since the start of the pandemic.

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Source: CNA/lk(zl)

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