COVID-19 SPECIAL

Stocks of blood type AB-, AB+ and A+ at critical levels

Donors at a community blood drive at the Tzu Chi Foundation last month. Currently, only four mobile drives are held each week compared with at least 10 such drives weekly in the past. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RED CROSS
Donors at a community blood drive at the Tzu Chi Foundation last month. Currently, only four mobile drives are held each week compared with at least 10 such drives weekly in the past. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RED CROSS

National blood stocks have declined by a third during the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore, though the blood bank has recovered from a sudden plunge in blood collection in the week of the circuit breaker implementation.

At the time, only a quarter of the usual blood collection was made, a quantity far below the country's daily needs. Donations went back up again after appeals were made on social and traditional media.

As of last Friday, available stocks of blood type AB-, AB+ and A+ were at critical levels and A-and O-were at low levels.

The Singapore Red Cross said the drop in blood collection during the circuit breaker period was greater than what is usually the case during festive seasons, long weekends and school holidays, when donations can dip by 20 per cent.

"We recognise that many donors will avoid going out unnecessarily. Some donors may not be aware that blood donation remains an essential service and that our blood banks are still open," said a spokesman for the Singapore Red Cross (SRC).

"We were also unable to hold mobile blood drives as often as previously," the spokesman added.

Currently, only four mobile drives are held each week compared with at least 10 such drives weekly in the past.

Each year, almost 30,000 patients in Singapore require a steady stream of blood supply to survive. The country needs about 400 bags of blood every day in order to sustain the transfusion needs of patients.

So far, the SRC said it has not had to turn away a patient needing blood transfusion.

However, it added that more needs to be done to ensure a sufficient and sustainable supply of safe blood for Singapore.

Currently, less than 2 per cent of Singapore residents are blood donors and only one third of them donate more than twice a year.

 
 
 
 

Blood is not only required for the injured or those undergoing surgery, but it is also critical for the treatment of blood disorders and other medical conditions.

For example, thalassaemia patients need a blood transfusion once every two to four weeks and cancer patients also require regular transfusions during treatment.

So there is a need for more people to become blood donors and to donate regularly. Blood has a short shelf-life - six weeks for red cells and five days for platelets, said the SRC spokesman.

Stock of negative blood types also tends to be low, as only less than 1 per cent of Singapore's population is RhD-negative.

Fortunately, some schools, religious organisations and associations continue to hold blood donation drives on their premises.

A blood drive at Keat Hong Community Club in Choa Chu Kang is scheduled for tomorrow and another at Victory Family Centre in Sembawang Drive for Friday.

Freelance copywriter Lynx Ng continued to donate blood last month during the circuit breaker.

"Blood donation doesn't take that much time and doesn't really cost you, yet it is lifesaving. So I think it's something worthwhile to do even during this pandemic period," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2020, with the headline 'National blood stocks down by a third as donations fall amid pandemic'. Print Edition | Subscribe