SINGAPORE - A total of 54 people died of Covid-19 in April, as part of the current wave that had earlier pushed the number of weekly infections beyond 28,000 at the end of March.
The death toll in April is more than the 30 deaths in the first quarter of 2023, based on Ministry of Health data.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious diseases expert at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, warned that the number of deaths in May could be even higher. He said: “The case count has gone up dramatically, especially among the 60-plus-year-old group. Deaths are also largely in this group.”
Of the 84 Covid-19 deaths between January and April, 81 were people aged 60 years and older. They generally accounted for more than 80 per cent of those hospitalised.
For the week of May 14, the data showed a fall in overall Covid-19 infections, as well as the number of people needing to be hospitalised. The figures, however, were still relatively high.
There were 20,767 infections recorded that week, compared with 23,531 in the previous week. A total of 379 patients were admitted to hospital, down from 552 in the previous week.
As a result, Covid-19 patients occupied a daily average of 263 hospital beds in the week of May 14, compared with 336.4 in the previous week, which was the highest occupancy by Covid-19 patients so far in 2023.
The number of patients admitted each week to intensive care has remained in the double digits over the past five weeks. Last week, 16 were admitted to intensive care units.
Prof Hsu said deaths tend to lag behind infections and patients in intensive care.
His colleague, Associate Professor Alex Cook, said 54 deaths is not “a lot” compared with pre-pandemic times when Singapore had about two deaths from influenza a day. Also, at the height of the pandemic in 2021, there were months with close to 300 deaths.
Prof Cook added: “However, hopefully the pandemic has changed our attitudes to protecting ourselves against infectious diseases.
“The best way to protect our loved ones from being one of those Covid-19 deaths is to encourage them to stay up to date with both their Covid-19 and flu vaccines, especially if they are vulnerable.”
Earlier this week, the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination noted with concern that those hospitalised with Covid-19 were “more likely to not be updated with their Covid-19 vaccinations and had not yet received a bivalent vaccine dose, while a substantial number had not completed vaccinations even for minimum protection”.
It added: “These hospital admissions could potentially have been prevented by vaccination.”
Having at least three mRNA jabs provides sustained protection against severe illness. But those who are more vulnerable, such as seniors or people with underlying diseases, should keep updated with annual vaccinations.
Hence, the expert committee recommended that people who are 60 years and older, or who are medically vulnerable, get vaccinated about a year after their last dose, although they may do so as early as five months after that dose.
Only about half the people here aged 60 and above are up to date with their Covid-19 vaccination, down from 58 per cent at the start of 2023.
In total, 81 per cent of people have what Singapore considers the “minimum protection” – three mRNA or Novavax shots, or four shots of Sinovac. About 90 per cent have had at least one vaccine jab.