SINGAPORE - Unvaccinated seniors remain the most vulnerable to new Covid-19 infections as Singapore continues to ease restrictions in its reopening, said ministers chairing a task force tackling the pandemic.
They urged people over 60 to get their jabs as soon as possible.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Thursday (June 24), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said about 75 per cent of seniors aged 60 and above have received at least one dose, but this is "not enough".
Giving a more detailed breakdown, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said nearly 80 per cent of those in their 60s have been at least partially vaccinated, but the rate for those aged 70 and above is still less than 70 per cent.
"We still need to get the vaccination rates for our elderly higher than where they are today. In fact, in some places, they have already achieved more than 90 per cent vaccination coverage for the elderly population, so we still have some way to go," Mr Wong said.
More than three million people in Singapore, or about 53 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Mr Wong noted that many of the cases in recent clusters in Bukit Merah View involved elderly people and that such outbreaks can easily happen in other parts of Singapore.
"It could happen in an area where there's a high concentration or a high proportion of elderly persons and if many of them are not vaccinated, then we will end up with more severe consequences because they will have severe illness," said the minister.
"Hospitalisation and intensive care unit rates will go up and unfortunately, under such a scenario, fatalities may rise too. So we must do everything we can to avoid such an outcome."
Mr Wong asked younger Singaporeans to encourage elderly family members to protect themselves through vaccination.
"If you have an elderly parent who is not vaccinated yet, please engage them. Persuade them to get vaccinated, bring them to the centre to get them jabbed. You will be doing a lot to keep them safe.
"Don't take the view that it's okay, my elderly parent only stays at home, I'm not going out so much, so it's all right. You may have people visiting your elderly parent and any visitor may well bring the virus into the home."
In response to a question on whether Singapore will consider offering incentives for getting vaccinated, such as the lotteries being implemented in some countries, Mr Wong said no option was being ruled out.
Revised guidelines that could see vaccinated people facing fewer restrictions and greater conveniences such as being able to travel overseas without quarantine on their return may also spur more people to get vaccinated, Mr Wong said.
But he also noted that despite such incentives and greater availability of vaccines, there will still be certain groups who do not want to get a vaccine for various reasons.
"It may not be simply a matter of monetary incentives. There could be other barriers that may be impeding them or causing them not to want to take up the vaccination. We need to understand better what their concerns are."
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said seniors will face greater risks as measures are eased because of the eventual removal of safe distancing requirements.
"Today, they are protected because of the safe distancing measures that were put in place. We have kept transmission generally low because of these measures, but once we have achieved a high level of vaccination, some of these measures will then be eased.
"We have to be aware that once we allow more activities to resume, the risks will go up. Those who are vaccinated will continue to be protected but those who are not vaccinated, especially the seniors, will face a higher risk of infection and higher risk of severe disease."