As the daughter of a severely immunocompromised patient warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, I am in full support of the visitor restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) (Hospital ward visits to be suspended till Aug 18, Aug 5).
The next step should be a review of what hospital visitation policy would look like when Covid-19 becomes endemic.
A key pillar of hospital visitation policy should be the requirement for visitors to be vaccinated with two doses of the mRNA vaccines, which significantly reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission and have a higher efficacy rate than other vaccines.
This remains imperative even if hospital patients are themselves vaccinated, as the bodies of patients who are receiving immunosuppressants might not be able to mount an optimal response to the vaccine.
This also guards against the risk of straining public health resources, as existing patients, most of whom have underlying conditions, would likely require supplemental oxygen and intensive care should they contract the virus.
Visitors who continue to refuse vaccinations for non-medical, personal reasons jeopardise the Covid-19-free status that hospitals have fought hard to maintain, as well as the safety of hospital patients and medical staff.
This is in addition to the tremendous toll on family members who are being kept apart from their loved ones whenever visitor restrictions are tightened to prevent or contain Covid-19 outbreaks in hospitals.
While questions might be raised about whether conferring visitation rights based on vaccination status is discriminatory, the ethical responsibility to protect vulnerable patients who have limited say in their own vaccination status presents a compelling argument in support of such a policy.
Furthermore, with the vaccination programme now accessible to all residents (with the exception of some categories of visa holders), most of us would have had the chance to receive both vaccine doses by the end of this month.
Ethical concerns could also be mitigated with compassionate consideration of visitors who are unable to be vaccinated due to their age (such as children) and medical conditions.
Heng Yi Xin