Covid-19 may no longer be as dangerous for most Singaporeans, but there is one group to whom it still poses a serious threat: seniors aged 60 and above who are not vaccinated, and those 80 and above even if they are vaccinated. The recent rise in Covid-19 cases here has seen more of them experiencing severe symptoms when infected. Given their higher risk profile, seniors and those living with them have been strongly urged to stay at home, especially if they are unvaccinated. They have been encouraged to go out only for essential activities and avoid crowded places, and to minimise group activities and social gatherings. Also on the list of things to do less are mask-off activities such as dining in at hawker centres.
Some seniors are chafing at the latest move to bar those who are unvaccinated from dining in at hawker centres and coffee shops. They are also not allowed into shopping malls where they may be exposed to crowds, although they can enter supermarkets that are standalone stores. Some seniors find staying at home the whole day stifling, and continue to venture out despite the risks. Others head out because they need to work. At the same time, there are those who are resistant to getting even a single dose of the vaccine, due to irrational fears of side effects. Strenuous efforts have been made to reach out to them, from mobile vaccination teams to e-vouchers for those who refer unvaccinated seniors for jabs.
The path to Covid-19 resilience does not have to be a fraught one if more seniors get their two jabs of the vaccine - or three. The risks to unvaccinated people are simply higher. The numbers bear this out: While just 1.5 per cent of people here are unvaccinated, they make up two-thirds of those in intensive care or who have passed away. Differentiated treatment between those who are vaccinated and those who are not will hopefully nudge more people to get jabbed. Vaccination-differentiated measures may make some unhappy, but it is not fair to not extend more normal lives to people who have played their part, including school students who have missed out on valuable social and co-curricular activities.
As to whether domestic measures are too draconian compared with how Singapore is opening up its borders to visitors, the reality is this: imported case numbers remain low. Opening up will also give the economy a much-needed fillip, especially to the aviation, retail and tourism sectors. These measures also prevent healthcare infrastructure from being overwhelmed - not just in terms of hospital bed capacity, but also staff who are feeling stretched. Hence it is important to keep the number of patients needing intensive care at a level that can be safely managed. Everyone needs to do their part, including seniors, by getting vaccinated. Only then can Singapore emerge surely and safely from the pandemic.