With only a few dozen Covid-19 deaths and one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, Singapore He wants to reopen for business — and lay the foundation for living with the coronavirus as he does other common illnesses like the flu.
Its medical experts say there could be hundreds of deaths each year from endemic COVID-19, similar to influenza. This hands-on approach could set an example for other countries looking to emerge from lockdowns as they ramp up their vaccination programmes.
“The only way for there to be no deaths from any disease anywhere in the world is to eradicate the disease completely, and that has only been done for smallpox,” said Paul Tambiah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection.
Singapore has reported just 44 COVID-19 deaths since the outbreak began in early January 2020. That compares to nearly 800 flu-related deaths in a typical year, according to doctors, in the country of 5.7 million people.
Alex Cook, an infectious disease modeling expert at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said.
He added that up to 1,000 could die in the next year or two in Singapore if vaccinations did not improve among the elderly.
Experts predict the majority of deaths will be among the older age groups, who remain vulnerable despite being eligible for nearly half the year.
The country’s health minister, Aung Yi Kung, said this month that with the economy opening up, Singaporeans should be “psychologically prepared because the number of deaths due to Covid-19 is likely to rise as well”.
Three-quarters of Singapore’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the country is set to ease further restrictions in September when the vaccination rate reaches 80%.
As of August 16, 80% of those 70 years of age or older were fully vaccinated, and those 60–69 years old were 88%.
Singapore has reported six Covid-19 deaths in the past two weeks, none of whom have been vaccinated.
Early results from mathematical models indicate that the projected number of deaths for older adults aged 60 or over will be around 480 in 2022, said Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Su Soe Hok School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.
Other countries that have had early successes with the virus, such as AustraliaThey are also changing their strategies to prepare for more Covid-19 deaths in an era where the disease is here to stay. But as one of the world’s most pollinated countries, Singapore may be the first to show what that really means.
“If countries start to move towards an endemic strategy for Covid-19, it is expected that there will be more related deaths, although it remains unclear how many of these excess deaths and how many deaths would have occurred apart from Covid-19, Teo said.