Covid-19 cases in Singapore likely to peak in a week or sooner: Experts

This is the first time Singapore is riding through a wave without any heightened safe management measures. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Covid-19 cases are likely to peak in a week or even sooner, experts here said, as the nation weathers through yet another infection curve.

The week-on-week infection ratio - which refers to the ratio of community cases for the past week, over the week before - is falling. This means that Covid-19 cases are increasing at a slower rate.

"It does not mean that the epidemic is declining, but it does mean that the peak is approaching," said Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

Singapore's week-on-week infection ratio continues to be slightly above one.

A week-on-week infection ratio above one shows that the number of new weekly Covid-19 cases is increasing.

"When the ratio hits one, that signifies the peak is upon us, and thereafter, the ratio should go below one and the cases should start to fall. The case numbers fluctuate lots from day to day, but the weekly growth rate has quite a strong pattern," Prof Cook said.

"However, it's worth noting that the case numbers are a fraction of the actual infections that are happening right now, and if testing and diagnosis rates have changed over the last few weeks, this analysis would be less accurate."

This is also the first time that Singapore is riding through a wave without any heightened safe management measures.

Riding such a surge in cases without heightened measures is the definition of resilience, said Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital.

He added: "We need to do it with flu, and we will need to keep doing it for Covid-19 for the foreseeable future. The heightened measures have a financial and social cost, and shouldn't be implemented without good reason. Nonetheless, we have these measures as a backup in case the situation does become dire.

"This current surge in cases did not demand more measures although we did tighten things in hospitals and nursing homes where the most vulnerable are."

Tightened measures which were imposed from July 7 included limits on the number of visitors at all hospital wards and residential care homes. 

Singapore had previously implemented restrictions such as limits on group sizes for social gatherings and outdoor mask wearing.

Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, noted it would be inevitable that Singapore will eventually need to go through a Covid-19 wave without any measures.

However, there are three key differences in the way the Republic is going into this wave compared with the previous ones, he said.

First, the population is not only well vaccinated, but also well boosted, where almost 80 per cent of the population have received their third booster shot.

Second, hospitals and community facilities are well prepared to handle any surge, with community facilities stepped up to relieve the pressure on hospitals.

Third, most people are equipped with the knowledge on how to handle infections should they or their family members become infected, including self-diagnosing with antigen rapid test (ART) kits, self-isolating at home, and not rushing to hospitals for treatment whenever they see a positive ART outcome.

"All of these mean Singapore is entering the wave with a degree of preparation that we did not have previously," Prof Teo added.

"I do not personally think there is a need to restrict our social activities, except if one is going to be interacting with frail elderly or any unvaccinated people, in which case I strongly recommend self-testing prior to interacting with these people."

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