Surge in new infections seen straining Singapore hospitals


Singapore warned that Covid-19 cases are dangerously straining the city-state’s health care system, even as strict rules designed to curb the current outbreak are set to be reviewed within days. 

New daily cases hit 3,994 on Tuesday, another record, with more patients needing intensive care, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. The increase was likely due to a post-weekend surge, the ministry said, though it will continue monitoring cases to determine if it was a trend. 

“The number of persons requiring ICU care continues to rise, and this has put our hospitals under significant pressure and strain,” according to the ministry. It asked residents to limit their social activities, especially the elderly population, and go out only for essential outings.

The continuing surge in infections is likely to test the government’s resolve to proceed with reopening within the community, with officials set to review measures introduced nearly a month ago to curb the virus’s spread. The spate of restrictions, including making work-from-home the standard and allowing a maximum of two people to meet in social settings, were put in place until October 24.

There are growing signs of fatigue with the curbs. A rise in activity levels was observed over the past week, including more visitors to malls and a slight increase in use of public transportation, the health ministry said. 

The seven-day average number of new infections in the Asian financial hub have more than tripled from a month ago and are now hitting more than 3,000 a day. Daily reported infections among unvaccinated seniors above the age of 60, a group that is more vulnerable to developing severe disease, has risen to well over 100, according to the ministry.  

Key developments:

Bangkok hits 70 vaccination rate

Thailand’s capital has administered at least two doses of vaccine to 71 percent of its adult population, paving the way for the city to welcome back inoculated visitors without a mandatory quarantine from Nov. 1. The inoculation rate is projected to reach 80 percent by the end of this month, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Thailand is set to allow quarantine-free visits from five nations including the US, UK and Singapore starting next month as it seeks to revive its tourism-reliant economy. The country reported 8,918 new Covid cases on Wednesday, the lowest single-day tally since July 13.

New Zealand may ease quarantine measures

Chris Hipkins, Covid-19 Response Minister, said the changing nature of the pandemic in New Zealand may lead to changes to the country’s border controls, with the possibility of shorter stays in government-managed isolation facilities and increased use of self-isolation for people coming into the country. 

Bidens not deemed exposed after Mayorkas tests positive

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden aren’t considered close-contact exposures to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who tested positive three days after attending an outdoor event with them.

Biden, who received his booster shot three weeks ago, isn’t considered at risk because his most recent encounter was more than 48 hours before the positive test and occurred outdoors, the White House said. The fully vaccinated Mayorkas tested positive Tuesday morning as part of routine check before a planned trip, according to his department. Mayorkas is experiencing mild congestion and will isolate and work from home.

Pregnancy changes immune response to vaccine: Study

Pregnant and breast-feeding women appear to respond relatively weakly to their first vaccine dose, according to a study that indicates the importance of them receiving both doses of standard regimens. Immune responses to a single dose of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech SE were weaker than in a group of nonpregnant women, according to the study released Tuesday by Science Translational Medicine. 

Pfizer shot prevents hospitalization in teens

Pfizer’s vaccine proved highly effective in keeping adolescents from being hospitalized with the disease, according to a new analysis from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among children age 12 to 18, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot were 93 percent effective in preventing Covid hospitalization, the agency said. The real-world data was gathered from 19 children’s hospitals from June to September, after US regulators cleared the shot for people age 12 to 15.

The analysis of 464 patients compared those admitted with Covid to others in the hospital that didn’t have the disease. Nearly all of those hospitalized for Covid—97 percent—were unvaccinated, compared to about two-thirds of the control group that was unvaccinated.

The Delta variant predominated during the study period, and pediatric hospitalizations reached their highest levels in early September, the CDC said. About half of adolescents 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated in the US so far. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is authorized for people under 18 in the US so far. Bloomberg News

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