Next Covid-19 wave could emerge as people’s antibodies wane; cases to rise in July-August, says Singapore health minister

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SINGAPORE, June 5 (The Straits Times/ANN): The next wave of Covid-19 cases in Singapore could emerge as people’s antibodies from vaccinations and infections from the last Omicron wave start to wane, leading to a rise in cases in July or August.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Sunday (June 5) that based on what is happening in other parts of the world like the United States and Europe, it will be driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the virus.

“It’s not due to any complex modelling effort, but just the fact that once a wave subsides, four to six months later, we should expect another wave to rise,” said Ong on the sidelines of a visit to the upcoming Bukit Canberra integrated sport and community hub.

“Nothing will happen until months later when our antibodies start to wane, then you can see BA.4 and BA.5 emerging by July or August…that’s our estimate.”

The two sub-variants were first detected in South Africa early this year, and are currently driving a fresh increase in Covid-19 numbers all over the world.

The first three cases of the sub-variants were detected in Singapore in mid-May, but experts say there is no cause for undue alarm.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) earlier said the two variants contain mutations in the spike protein which appear to confer “greater immune escape properties and higher transmissibility” compared to the BA.1 and BA.2 variants, which drove the original Omicron outbreak here.

On Sunday, Ong noted that while there have been some cases here, they have not overtaken the BA.1 or BA.2 strains.

“Most importantly, it’s not the case numbers, but how many people fall severely ill,” he said.

“I believe that with our strong resilience, we can ride through a period of BA.4 and BA.5.”

At the MOH annual work plan seminar on June 2, Ong called on all healthcare setting, from nursing homes to community hospitals, to be Covid-ready and prepared to handle patients from this next wave of the virus.

He said despite high vaccination coverage and prevailing mask-on rules, Singapore needs to shore up its defences by making more hospital beds available, in case pressure builds up again.

Efforts are underway, with hospitals rolling out home care services to free up beds.

Community treatment facilities have also been redesigned to take in any patient who does not require the acute care that a hospital provides, regardless of their illness.

Such facilities were first rolled out last year to take in elderly Covid-19 patients who required closer monitoring, but were otherwise in stable medical condition.

Besides freeing up beds, eligible seniors – aged 60 and above – who have not taken their booster shots will also have to be convinced to take their third shot, as they are the most vulnerable group, noted Ong.

Singapore reported 2,879 new cases of Covid19 on Saturday (June 4), bringing the total tally to 1,316,728.

Of the new cases, 265 cases were detected through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 2,614 through antigen rapid test (ART) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 250 were local transmissions and 15 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 2,502 local transmissions and 112 imported cases.

A total of 289 cases are currently warded in hospitals, with seven cases in intensive care units.

Three more patients have died from complications due to Covid-19 infection, bringing the death toll to 1,392, the ministry said. – The Straits Times/ANN

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