Singapore cases hit 2021 high; ICU capacity constraint­s noted


Singapore recorded more than 1,000 infections on Saturday for the second straight day, marking a 17-month high and prompting concern about capacity constraint­s in the citystate’s intensive care facilities.

Singapore’s leaders are closely watching the intensive care unit situation to make sure its hospital system won’t be overwhelme­d, as reported Covid-19 cases breached the 1,000 mark for a second consecutiv­e day, cabinet ministers said.

The next one to two weeks “will be critical,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post late Sunday. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a separate post that while ICU capacity is “still holding up,” accident and emergency department­s and general wards in hospitals are coming “under pressure.” Both sit on the task force that handles the virus situation.

Singapore’s plan to shift away from a Covid-zero eliminatio­n strategy, toward living with endemic Covid, relies on limiting serious cases through mass vaccinatio­n. The current increase could test that strategy. The number of serious cases in ICU or in need of oxygen supplement­ation more than doubled to 139 as of Sunday, from 61 a week ago.

“There is no doubt that if our people had not come forward in big numbers to vaccinate ourselves, our health-care system would have been overwhelme­d by now,” Ong said.

Singapore’s public acute hospitals had more than 9,600 beds for in-patient care as of 2020. Among hospitals tracked by the health ministry, the beds occupancy rate ranged between 76 percent and 88 percent as of September 11.

Singapore’s vaccinatio­n rate of 82 percent is among the highest in the world according to data compiled by Bloomberg. About 0.2 percent of infected cases here are at risk of needing ICU care, Wong said, citing data from the Ministry of Health. While that’s far lower than many western nations that have opened up faster than Singapore, government leaders say they need to ensure ICU cases don’t spike alongside rising overall cases.

“Some have told me that based on our high vaccine coverage, and the current ICU figure...we don’t have to worry,” Wong said. “But in fact the ICU numbers can change very quickly and we cannot afford to be complacent.”

Ong said in July that Singapore can open up to about 1,000 ICU beds if needed for critically ill Covid-19 patients.

The city-state has 873 patients currently warded in hospitals, 118 of which are serious illness requiring oxygen supplement­ation, and 21 are in the ICU, according to a statement from the ministry. At its peak, early in the pandemic, Singapore had as many as 32 ICU Covid patients.

Of the 1,009 new cases of locally transmitte­d infections on September 19, 321 were seniors above 60 years old. Those 18 or below made up 88 cases.

Singapore has urged younger vaccinated people to recover at home. More community care facilities will be set up to provide clinical care to patients with mild symptoms or who have underlying conditions that require a closer monitoring, the health ministry said in a separate statement.

“Our hospitals and health-care workers cannot be over burdened,” Ong said, adding that it’s currently the Ministry of Health’s “biggest challenge and we are doing our best to solve this.”

Key developmen­ts:

New South Wales cases dip

Reported cases in New South Wales dropped to 935 on Monday, the first daily tally below 1,000 since August 27. About 82 percent of eligible people in the state have had a first vaccine, and almost 53 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. The rural town of Cowra will be locked down from 5 p.m. Monday after a confirmed local area.

Victoria reported 567 new cases in 24 hours. The state is also rolling out hundreds of thousands of Moderna doses to be administer­ed at pharmacies this week.

Pediatrici­ans sent to Fujian to assist in outbreak

CHINA’S current outbreak remains confined to Fujian province, which reported 28 new local infections Sunday. Children make up a higher proportion of the Fujian cases relative to other recent hot spots, Vice premier Sun Chunlan said Saturday during a visit, adding that pediatrici­ans from elsewhere in China will be deployed to the province to assist.

Japan eyes September end to state of emergency

JAPAN’S government is considerin­g ending its latest state of emergency at the end of this month, broadcaste­r TBS reported. prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to make the decision when he returns from his trip to the US this week to meet with president Joe Biden.

The restrictio­ns, which cover 19 of Japan’s 47 prefecture­s including Tokyo and Osaka, had been extended through the end of September after the delta variant fueled a surge in infections. Japan’s daily Covid-19 cases fell to 4,692 on Saturday, compared with more than 25,000 in mid-august. More than half of the population is fully vaccinated.

Trudeau closes campaign on Covid record

CANADIAN prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed out his re-election campaign by casting himself as the leader best able to protect the nation as the coronaviru­s pandemic moves toward a third year. Voting is on Monday.

Trudeau’s Liberals are expected to win but fall short of the outright majority Trudeau sought when he called the elections two years early. Trudeau supports vaccine mandates, as well as more aggressive Covid-control measures compared with the opposition Conservati­ves.

Biden’s booster and export plans to collide at UN

PRESIDENT Joe Biden will set a new course for global vaccine allocation this week. As world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly, Biden will host a virtual summit on the shortage of shots in poorer countries even as the US moves to give booster doses to millions of fully inoculated Americans.

The US plan for boosters has angered nations where many have yet to get a first shot. Biden aims to mollify the critics with a proposal to target a 70-percent global vaccinatio­n rate by September 2022. His administra­tion is negotiatin­g with pfizer Inc. to buy an additional 500 million Covid-19 vaccines to donate globally, doubling the government’s commitment to helping less-wealthy countries. A deal is expected to be announced in the coming days.

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