Singapore’s Outbreak Highlights A Challenging Road Ahead For Covid-19 Containment

Singapore has largely been spared from astronomical Covid-19 case counts and lengthy lockdowns due to an early response and an elaborate surveillance system. Before the virus even had a name in late January 2020, Singapore had implemented travel restrictions and an efficient test, trace, and isolate system with penalties in place for those who disobeyed. Yet, Singapore is now experiencing a new surge of cases, despite having vaccinated a quarter (25.3%) of the population. Similar outbreaks in Vietnam and Taiwan who have previously controlled the virus well should serve as a warning to countries that are rolling back restrictions and opening up.

As of 24 May 2021, the Singapore Ministry of Health has confirmed 24 new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 infections. Of these cases, 22 are linked to previous cases, amongst which 12 have already been placed on quarantine, and 10 were detected through surveillance. The remaining 2 cases are presently unlinked to previous cases. In total 36 new cases were reported as of May 24, 2021.

Singapore has been able to effectively trace and link the majority of new cases to 24 active clusters, involving locations such as Changi Airport, Tock Seng Hospital, Changi Prison Complex, and a tutoring center called Learning Point. There are 78 vaccinated individuals who have been infected with Covid-19 and are mostly frontline workers, compared with about 300 unvaccinated cases, according to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. Vaccinated cases were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, yet it emphasizes how we must factor breakthrough cases into our public health strategies.

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Originally published on Forbes on May 24, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.