SINGAPORE: More COVID-19 infections and a new coronavirus wave are expected amid an increase in year-end travel and as more people take part in the upcoming festivities, but it will not be something that Singapore has not experienced, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (Dec 4).
"With Christmas coming, (the) new year coming, people going out, (there's) bound to have more infections, but it's not something we've never seen before," he said.
He added that in 2022, Singapore saw three COVID-19 waves - the BA.2 Omicron subvariant in April, the wave driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants in July, and the recent wave driven by the XBB variant.
"So there will be a new wave but it's not something that we have not seen before," said Mr Ong on the sidelines of a Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) event held at Nanyang Junior College.
Mr Ong also said that the government will be monitoring developments overseas.
BE MINDFUL OF NEW VARIANTS
Mr Ong said one thing that people should be mindful of is a potential new variant of concern that may emerge, as winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere.
He also touched on China's COVID-19 situation.
"When China opens up more - it looks like they are shifting their policy. If they do so, there will bound to be more infections. We can see that more and more people are infected in China, and when that happens, (given) the density and the enormous population of China, there are bound to be new variants of concern," said Mr Ong.
As for Singapore, Mr Ong said the country's direction "has been very clear" for the past year. Whenever it is possible for Singapore to open up, the country will do so further, he added.
"We are left with very few rules and pretty much life has gone back to normal. But where we can, we should take another step forward."
Last week, Mr Ong said in Parliament that Singapore's mortality rate from COVID-19 reinfection is lower than that of those who were infected for the first time.
In Singapore, the mortality rate of reinfection cases from September to November was four per 100,000 cases, lower than the rate for first-time infection cases of 35 per 100,000 cases, he added.
He also said last month that hospitals will no longer set aside whole wards for COVID-19 patients.
Mr Ong noted that with high vaccination rates and good levels of immunity against severe illness within the population, patients based on clinical severity and priority for treatment, and not manage COVID-19 patients to a different standard.
Over the past 28 days, Singapore logged 44,571 new COVID-19 infections. Among them, 99.7 per cent had no or mild symptoms, 0.3 per cent required oxygen supplementation and 0.04 per cent were warded in the intensive care unit.