International COVID 19 Experts say recent uptick in Singapore infections “expected” due to border openings

Experts say recent uptick in Singapore infections “expected” due to border openings

On Jan 10, there were 42 new cases of Covid-19, the highest daily count in nine months

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Singapore—Given the rising cases of Covid-19 around the world, in addition to the country lifting travel restrictions for the sake of employment and tourism, the recent increase in local Covid-19 cases in Singapore was “expected,” some experts told The Straits Times (ST).

The uptick is also due to the authorities’ high success rate in identifying new cases in people coming into the country.

On Jan 10 (Sunday), there were 42 new cases of Covid-19, the highest daily count in nine months.  There have been a total of 562 imported cases from 31 different countries from Dec 15, 2020 to Jan 10, 2021.

New daily cases have recently been in the double digits, in comparison to October and November, when the daily count went down to single digits. This is due, in part, to the country beginning to allow visitors from several countries to come in since September.

In addition, more S-pass and work permit applications were also allowed from that point, in answer to labour shortages in different companies.

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ST quotes Associate Professor Josip Car as saying that the uptick in cases in the country is an expected one, “given the intensification of the Covid-19 disease globally, especially with the discovery of the new and highly transmissible strain of the virus”.

Prof Car is the director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

Case in point: the United Kingdom, where a sizeable surge in infections has been observed lately, is the third largest source of imported cases in Singapore.

India and Indonesia, the first and second largest sources of imported infections, are also reporting high numbers of daily cases.

Professor Dale Fisher, from the Department of Medicine in the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (who also chairs the World Health Organisation’s Global Outbreak and Alert and Response Network), told ST that many travellers from high-prevalence countries test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival.

However, when compared to the total number of all travellers serving SHN, the percentage that has tested positive has stayed low.

Of the 18,426 people serving SHN on Jan 3, only 35 tested positive for the infection, which amounts to only .002 per cent.

According to Prof Car, this is “a good sign that our detection measures are successful in screening out infected cases, given that community spread is still low”.

This also shows that measures to contain the infection and prevent community spread through measures implementing the SHN for travellers have been successful, the experts ST spoke to added.

They also said that unless global cases decrease or Singapore closes borders again, the number of imported cases is unlikely to decrease.

Associate Professor Alex Cook of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health is quoted in ST as saying that if some travellers remain undetected the community’s safe management measures will be able to mitigate their impact.

As for the small rise in community cases, he says it was due to the further lifting of measures in Phase 3.

“Phase three is characterised by greater normalcy than phase two, which of course means the risk of transmission is higher.

We believe this can be countered by the safe management measures that we have in place now, though time will tell whether the balance is still right.”

/TISG

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