COVID-19 Updates: Vaccinations, Disruptions to SG Supply Chain, UK Virus Variant

Straits Times
Straits Times

More than 6,200 people vaccinated against COVID-19

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced that more than 6,200 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, as part of the governmentā€™s efforts to ramp up the scope and pace of its vaccination programme.

“Particularly in the last few days, we have been ramping up the capacity, and yesterday we vaccinated 2,800 (people),” added Mr Gan, who is also co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force.

The Health Minister also received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, alongside Education Minister Lawrence Wong at Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital. Both ministers have said that the injection is painless, and were put on observation for 30 minutes before speaking to reporters.

The government aims to have all Singaporeans and long-term residents vaccinated by the third quarter of 2021, barring ā€œunforeseen disruptions to vaccine shipmentsā€. Mr Gan also encouraged Singaporeans to get vaccinated, as vaccinations play an ā€œimportant roleā€ in Singaporeā€™s fight against the virus.

Singapore has made advance purchases of three different types of vaccines ā€” Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sinovac ā€” Mr Wong urged Singaporeans to get vaccinated when they can, instead of waiting for a specific brand to be available.

Elderly to be vaccinated later this month

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced that vaccinations for the elderly will begin later this month. To kickstart the process, the ministry will be sending letters to seniors, inviting them to book an appointment for their vaccination.

ā€œNursing homes have begun engaging their residents and their next-of-kin on the vaccinations. We will work with the community care providers to encourage all medically-eligible residents and clients to be vaccinated,ā€ said MOH.

Volunteers will also be enlisted for outreach and engagement efforts for the elderly to get vaccinated. This will be done by inviting them to the nearest polyclinic, PHPC or vaccination centre through a booking system, and providing them with information in different languages.

Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar to be held online on new digital platform

In view of the evolving COVID-19 situation, the Peopleā€™s Association (PA) has announced that the annual Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar will be held online this year, for the sake of residentsā€™ safety and wellbeing.

The online bazaar, a collaboration between Wisma Geylang Serai and the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI), will take place from 9 April to 13 May. The initiative aims to enable residents to learn new skills and enjoy new opportunities to expand and grow their businesses on an online platform.

PA will also work with stakeholders, corporate and community partners, as well as individuals to curate a variety of online programmes and fringe activities to engage residents, which include comedy, baking, cooking and exercise video that will be premiered across all of Wisma Geylang Serai’s social media platforms.

There will also be special “live” features such as the E-Buka Puasa (Break Fast Together) Show and the Hari Raya Show.

Those looking forward to the Hari Raya Light-Up will be able to watch the launch show on social media. The light up will be held from 9 April to 23 May.

Malaysia may need 12 weeks to flatten Covid-19 curve

Over the causeway, as several states in Malaysia have entered the movement control order (MCO), a senior official from the health ministry has said that it might take the country 12 weeks to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

The health ministry’s director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said the movement curbs that were reimposed in parts of the country on Wednesday are aimed at reducing the load of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, which will ease the burden on the countryā€™s healthcare system.

He also added that the projection of flattening the curve by May could change after two weeks of MCO. “What’s important is that we stay on the right track and adhere to the guidelines. Stay at home. If you have to go out, wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance. Hopefully, that will reduce new cases,ā€ he said.

At the time when the MCO was implemented, the daily infection rate in the country was averaging more than 2,000 a day, and hit a record-high of 3,309 on 12 January.

Dr Noor Hisham said that although the two-week MCO may not be enough to see a reduction in the number of cases, it will be able to prevent the number of cases from increasing.

‘No disruptions’ to supply chains after Malaysia tightens COVID-19 measures

As Malaysia goes into lockdown, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has reassured Singaporeans that supply chains between Singapore and Malaysia have not been disrupted.

In a Facebook post, Mr Chan said that although Malaysia has undertaken steps to prevent the spread of the virus in the country, both countries are ā€œcommitted to working closely together to maintain the integrity and interdependence of our bilateral supply linesā€.

“Over the last two days, there have been no disruptions to our supply chains and goods have continued to flow freely between our countries,” he said.

In addition, Singapore has also continually been strengthening its food supply diversification to build up a ā€œhealthy stockpileā€ of essential food items. “We are quietly confident but not complacent. I also thank Singaporeans for staying calm and adaptable amidst the evolving situation which has allowed us to better mitigate potential disruptions and stay resilient.”

British virus variant now in 50 countries

In the latest update on the COVID-19 situation in the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the British variant of the virus is now in 50 countries. A similar South African-identified strain has also now been found in 20 countries, and a third variant ā€œof concernā€ has also been identified in Japan.

“The more the Sars-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge,” said the WHO.

Sars-CoV-2 is the virus which causes COVID-19. The British variant, VOC 202012/01, was first reported on 14 December, and has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas.

Test results have showed that the age and sex distribution was similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data revealed “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain”.

The South African-identified variant, 501Y.V2, was first reported on 14 December. “From preliminary and ongoing investigations in South Africa, it is possible that the 501Y.V2 variant is more transmissible than variants circulating in South Africa previously,” the WHO weekly report said.

Although this variant does not appear to cause more severe illness, the rapid increases in the number of cases has placed healthcare systems under pressure.

On 9 January, the WHO was also informed by Japan of the existence of a new variant that was detected in four travellers that arrived from Brazil.

The extent and public health significance of these new variants require further investigation,” the report said. A meeting of 1,750 international scientists was held on 12 January to discuss critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants.

 

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