PM Lee Tests Positive For COVID-19; Urges S’poreans to Continue Taking Vaccinations

Last Updated on 2023-05-24 , 9:47 am

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, has received a positive COVID-19 test result, marking his first infection since the pandemic’s start in 2020. 

The diagnosis follows his recent official visits to South Africa and Kenya, where he engaged in discussions and collaborations in various areas such as information and communications technology (ICT), skills development and bilateral cooperation.

In a Facebook post on 22 May 2023, Mr Lee confirmed his positive test result and shared that he is currently observing self-isolation as per the advice of his doctors. 

He assured the public that he was generally feeling well. 

Still, he will remain in isolation until he shows no COVID-19-related symptoms and no longer poses a risk of transmitting the virus.

He also emphasised the importance of keeping vaccinations up-to-date, noting that his most recent COVID-19 vaccine booster was administered in November 2022.

PM Lee Has Been Prescribed Medication; Generally Doing Well

According to his post, Mr Lee generally shows only mild symptoms related to the COVID-19 virus and is feeling fine.

Due to his being 71 years old, he has been prescribed Paxlovid, an oral antiviral medication that received interim authorisation from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore in February 2022. 

This medication is specifically intended for individuals more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms, such as the elderly.

Paxlovid comprises two active ingredients: Nirmatrelvir and Ritonavir. These components target the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s 3CL enzyme, which is crucial for its replication. 

By inhibiting this enzyme, the antiviral activity within the body is maintained at higher concentrations for an extended period, aiding in one’s fight against the virus.

Mr Lee also attributes his experience of mild COVID-19-related symptoms to his commitment to receiving additional COVID-19 vaccines. 

He highlights that his most recent COVID-19 vaccine booster was administered in November 2022. 

As such, he implores individuals to stay updated with vaccinations to reduce the risk of severe illness.

COVID-19 Virus Still Prevalent Globally

Considering Mr Lee’s recent official visits to Cape Town, South Africa, from 14 to 16 May 2023, and Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 to 19 May 2023, his COVID-19 diagnosis does not come as a surprise.

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared on 7 May 2023 that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency due to a consistent decline in reported cases worldwide, it is essential for individuals to remain vigilant. 

The absence of a global health emergency designation does not imply that the virus has ceased to exist.

South Africa witnessed an average of 373 daily COVID-19 cases in March 2023, and the number of cases increased by 159% compared to the average number reported in February 2023. 

The upward trend of COVID-19 cases in South Africa persisted, with a total of 4,067,067 cases reported since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. 

Additionally, in Kenya, from 3 January 2020 to 17 May 2023, the WHO reported 343,074 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,688 deaths since.

Implores Singaporeans to Stay Vigilant Against COVID-19

In the meantime, Singapore has also been grappling with a wave of COVID-19 cases, with reports reaching its peak in late April 2023. 

The country has reported over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases attributed to the XBB variant since.

Mr Lee highlighted in his post that Singapore’s endemic approach to the virus by relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, such as travel and mask-wearing, is the main contributor to the increase in reports and the risk of contracting the virus.

Therefore, Mr Lee emphasises that individuals must remain vigilant and receive the necessary booster vaccinations to continue enjoying these relaxed measures.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Mr Ong Ye Kung has previously expressed concerns about declining vaccination rates among seniors due to their relaxed attitudes towards the virus. 

Contrary to their lack of concern, vulnerable individuals with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions, are actually more susceptible to severe infections. 

Furthermore, while Mr Ong acknowledges concerns seniors may have about potential vaccine side effects, he emphasises that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks.

Compared to the complications that can arise from the disease, complications from COVID-19 vaccines, such as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna, are minimal. 

He states that these vaccines have been validated by the Expert Committee On COVID-19 Vaccination and the HSA. 

As such, Mr Ong underscores the significance of keeping vaccinations up to date, as it is essential for maintaining the population’s resilience against the virus and preventing vulnerability to future infections.