Singapore has chosen to continue to use the strategy of containment in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that herd immunity is “too big a price for us to pay”.
At a press conference on Tuesday (May 12), Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, the Director of Medical Services, said that until a viable vaccine is available, Singapore will continue its efforts to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 by performing even more tests to determine who has been infected with the coronavirus.
Herd immunity occurs when a large segment of the population obtains immunity to a certain pathogen and so even when it is present, people do not get sick. It is achieved either through vaccinations or through enough people actually getting sick.
A/Prof Mak said: “It’s too big a price for us to pay. Even though we have taken many steps to prepare for surges, to expand our capability, it can easily be overwhelmed with a strategy of moving toward herd immunity.”
What the city-state plans to do instead is to ramp up its testing capabilities, aiming to perform up to 40,000 tests daily, according to bloomberg.com on Tuesday (May 12). At present, Singapore is able to do 8,000 tests a day. This fivefold increase will allow authorities to test not only those who have shown symptoms of the coronavirus.
Plans to increase testing were announced this week even as the country slowly emerges from circuit breaker restrictions. Establishments such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) halls, hair salons, pet food stores and home-based businesses began operations on Tuesday (May 12).
Regarding herd immunity, Associate Professor Vernon Lee, Director for Communicable Diseases, said that achieving it, “through natural infection is going to be very difficult and will result in large numbers of infections and complications. We will have to wait for a viable vaccine to come out”.
The number of infections in Singapore has continued to rise, with the vast majority of cases found among migrant workers who live in dormitories. These workers now make up over 85 percent of all the country’s cases. At present, Singapore has 24,671 cases and 3,851 recoveries. Twenty-one people have died of Covid-19 related causes.
But according to Brigadier-General Seet Uei Lim, who leads the joint task force on worker dormitories, the rates of infections in the dorms are stabilising, and the Government is preparing for the workers who have recovered to return to work after June 1, the scheduled date for the lifting of the circuit breaker.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at the same press conference that about 20,000 migrant workers who were infected with Covid-19 will be discharged from care facilities by the end of the month. He added that every foreign worker in Singapore will be tested for the coronavirus. The city-state has more than 300,000 foreign workers living in dorms.
The minister said: “We are continuing to test many workers, including the ones who are asymptomatic,” adding that the government is in a “good position” for considering gradually relaxing the tight restrictions Singapore has been under since April 7. /TISG