Prior to this, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told the members of the public that we should expect another spike in COVID-19 cases come July.
Well, that vague prediction isn’t worrying at all.
In light of that statement that was spurred by the emergence of new Omicron subvariants, here are some facts you should know about recent cases, plus the changes in government policy.
The New Omicron Subvariants
Ever since COVID-19 reared its ugly head in late 2019, it has gone through a lot of mutations.
Some happen within certain individuals but never spread, others catch on quickly, hence the five different waves of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron.
Presently, Omicron still remains as the dominant strain due to its enhanced transmissibility, except it has gained more specific mutations, such that they can be listed as BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, BA.5.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) website, Singapore is facing a 23% week-on-week increase in COVID-19 community infections, though the rise is now being driven by the newer Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
However, it should be noted that BA.2 still accounts for the majority of the new infections.
Subvariants BA.4 and BA.5
Therein lies the important question: What is making BA.4 and BA.5 gain in prominence, as compared to its other sibling sub variants?
Well, you should first understand that virus mutations are inevitable, they will always occur.
However, in terms of severity/lethality, BA.4 and BA.5 infections are similar to the previous Omicron strains.
The difference for the newer sub-lineages is that they have adapted; able to evade the neutralising provided by Sars-CoV-2 infection and vaccination.
This means that people who have been infected with the earliest version of Omicron may be vulnerable to reinfection with later versions, even if they have been administered their vaccination and booster shots.
Vaccination Protection Against Omicron Infections
The vaccination and booster shots are definitely a strong protection against Omicron, at least in the short term.
However, it is a known fact that vaccines gradually lose their effectiveness against the virus, which was why the Government pushed for the eligible population to get their booster shots within three to six months after the primary vaccine regimen has been completed.
Nonetheless, in case of any infection, the vaccine can reduce the chances of severe illness.
Still, prevention is always better than cure: make sure to practice good personal hygiene and wear your masks in indoor settings. If you’re feeling unwell, try to stay at home and limit your social contact with others.
Will There Be Any Changes in Safe Management Measures?
The MOH stated that the current safe management measures (SMM), which mandates mask wearing while indoors and vaccination-differentiated measures imposed on some higher risk activities will remain.
The Ministry will continue to monitor the circulating sub variants closely, and will be requiring some infected individuals to take additional government-funded polymerase chain (PCR) swab tests for genomic sequencing and studying.
Changes in Medical Subsidies
Starting from 1 July, most of the medical subsidies for COVID-19 will be discontinued.
For instance, subsidies at Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) and polyclinics for the treatment of respiratory infections will return to normal.
It means that the flat $5 to $10 fee for the treatment will no longer be available, though Singaporeans are still eligible for other subsidies under different schemes.
Telemedicine subsidies for individuals with mild symptoms and recovering at home, or those individuals under Protocol 2, will be ceased as well.
However, for individuals under Protocol 1, who are at high medical risk or suffer from severe symptoms but were discharged to a home setting, will continue to receive fully subsidised medical care.
Antigen rapid tests and PCR tests will still be free-of-charge for eligible individuals at PHPCs and polyclinics.
Emergency department charges for vaccinated Singaporean citizens, permanent residents, and long-term pass holders with COVID-19 will no longer be waived in all cases.
The fees will only be waived or subsided if the medical professionals deem that it is necessary for the patient to be admitted into the hospital or require treatment at a dedicated facility.
Those who are assessed and require admission and treatment will continue to have their charges and inpatient bills fully subsidised.
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