SINGAPORE: On Friday (Dec 15), the Ministry of Health noted that COVID-19 infections had risen by 75 per cent week-on-week, along with increased hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) cases. MOH announced more measures to protect the country’s healthcare capacity and “strongly encouraged” people to wear masks in crowded places.

On Sunday (Dec 17), in the Malaysian daily The New Straits Times, Virologist Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit said that the new Covid variant may pose risks of hospitalisation, death, or other complications for those who are vulnerable—those who are elderly or have certain health issues— but added that “even individuals in good health could be susceptible to long-term Covid-19 conditions.” Dr Lam added that it “could be characterised by persistent, recurrent, or prolonged symptoms lasting for weeks or months post-initial coronavirus infection.”

In October, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the director for epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention for the World Health Organization, said, “We don’t have great estimates, but there is one analysis that suggests that 6 per cent of symptomatic individuals suffered from the post-Covid condition.”

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She added that individuals with the condition suffer from many different effects on their organs, including the brain, lungs, and heart, for a period of between four and 12 months.

Other studies have shown that 10 per cent of individuals who have come down with symptomatic COVID-19 may develop symptoms for at least three months after coming down with infection. “More than 200 symptoms have been identified with impacts on multiple organ systems. At least 65 million individuals worldwide are estimated to have long COVID, with cases increasing daily.”

The bottom line is this: avoid getting Covid to the best of your ability. Mask up, especially in crowded places. Stay home when you feel ill. Keep up-to-date with your vaccine schedule.

MOH underlined the importance of keeping vaccinations up-to-date and said that from Tuesday (Dec 19), its website will be updated daily to reflect the latest estimated COVID-19 case numbers.

The ministry also said that most of the current infections are from JN.1, which is responsible for rising cases in many parts of the world, including the United States, where it is the fastest-growing variant.

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It bears saying that four years after COVID-19 first broke out, there’s still much that’s unknown about the virus behind it, and to complicate matters, the virus is constantly evolving.

The United States Centers for Disease Control said on Dec 8 that JN.1’s continued growth “suggests that it is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems.” Still, they added that “there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants.”

On its part, MOH said on Dec 15 that “based on the available international and local data, there is currently no clear indication that BA.2.86 or JN.1 are more transmissible or cause more severe disease than other circulating variants.”

Read also: COVID-19 cases up 75%; MOH ‘strongly encourages’ masking up in crowded places /TISG