SINGAPORE - As Singapore transitions to an endemic stage of managing Covid-19, it remains important to continue educating the public on how to protect themselves, in order to reduce the transmission of such infectious diseases.
This was at the heart of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases' (NCID) decision to launch a gallery showcasing how the centre has been built to manage both emerging and endemic diseases such as dengue, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis.
The exhibition also chronicles Singapore's history of infectious diseases since 1913, with a special section of the gallery dedicated to NCID's role in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The launch of the gallery is an extension of NCID's efforts to engage the community, and to educate them about diseases that continue to pose significant risk to public health and have significant impact on the well-being of the population, the centre said in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 7).
Officiating the launch on NCID's second anniversary on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat lauded the dedication and professionalism of healthcare workers at the NCID and in the wider healthcare community.
DPM Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, highlighted how the centre has collaborated with other partners throughout the crisis.
One example was the National Covid-19 Research Workgroup, which was set up one day before the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Singapore.
The workgroup, chaired by Professor Leo Yee Sin, NCID's executive director, and Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, the Ministry of Health's chief health scientist, had brought together Singapore's research and development ecosystem.
The collaboration involved public healthcare institutions, institutes of higher learning, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and DSO National Laboratories.
"The workgroup has guided research efforts and generated important findings that directly impacted our prevention and treatment strategies," said DPM Heng.
"We are now 20 months into the fight against Covid-19. NCID has led our efforts against the pandemic, working closely with the rest of our healthcare system... (Its) good work goes beyond the four walls of this building."
NCID's research has also revealed much about the more transmissible Delta variant - such as its ability to continue silent transmission and evade pre-existing immunity.
From September last year to June this year, the centre has led or co-authored 45 peer-reviewed research papers on Covid-19. Eight of them were featured in top journals such as the New England Journal.
Building Singapore's research and development capability will continue to be fundamental in preparing for a Disease X, which is a key area of the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise 2025 plans, said DPM Heng.
"We will be developing a national R&D Programme for Epidemic Preparedness and Response (Prepare)... (to) further strengthen Singapore's capabilities to prevent, prepare for and respond to future epidemics."
Speaking at the launch, Prof Leo said all of NCID's wards are currently in operation, which are concurrently managing Covid-19 cases and providing routine care for other infectious diseases.
The centre cares for approximately one-third of Covid-19 cases admitted to hospitals, with the readiness to respond to any surge in cases, she added.
Besides providing clinical care, the centre's public health programmes have continued to make significant contributions even as the centre continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof Leo noted.
For example, the National Tuberculosis Programme has maintained its contact-tracing operations throughout the Covid-19 period, with large-scale screening implemented when necessary.
She added that an outreach screening was conducted in Hougang in October last year after a cluster of four TB cases was detected at an HDB residential block.
Over the span of three days, the team successfully engaged more than 90 per cent of the households there, Prof Leo noted.
She said: "It is timely to launch the NCID Gallery and take the time to reflect on the past experiences of managing other infectious diseases outbreaks. Sars-CoV-2 will not be the last.
"Through the NCID Gallery and our community space, NCID Cares, we hope to reach out to the community and together take on the challenges of battling infectious diseases."
The NCID Gallery will be open to the public from Wednesday (Sept 8). Its operating hours are from Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm. Admission is free.