1. Study finds that 3 in 4 COVID-19 patients suffer from at least one symptom six months after infection
A study has found that three out of four patients still suffered from at least one symptom six months after getting infected with COVID-19, with the most common symptom being fatigue or muscle weakness.
Other common post-infection problems included sleep difficulties, and anxiety or depression. More women than men were affected.
Six months after infection, more than half the patients had “residual chest imaging abnormalities”, with greater impairments found in those who had been more severely sick. Some patients also developed diabetes or had blood clots that affected their heart or brain.
Additionally, about one in four reported not being able to walk the same distance in six minutes as compared to before infection. Some patients also had persistent problems with kidney function.
This is the largest such study carried out to date, comprising 1,733 patients that average 57 years old. The patients were from the Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China.
These continued symptoms are similar to patients who survived Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). A third of Sars survivors had complained of poorer mental health a year after infection, and 40 per cent complained of chronic fatigue for over three years.
Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital believes that “the so-called ‘long COVID’ exists, but it’s hard to accredit the symptoms fully to COVID-19 specifically without more research”.
He also added that longer term implications of this study is still unknown.
2. Fewer poly graduates are employed within six months of graduation in 2020
The Polytechnic Graduate Employment Survey has found that employment rates have dropped in the graduating cohort of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting Singapore’s job market.
The survey gathered responses from 7,360 polytechnic graduates and was jointly conducted by Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.
Of the respondents, 87.4 per cent of polytechnic graduates were employed within six months of graduating in 2020, down from 90.7 per cent in 2019. Additionally, only 52 per cent of those employed had full-time jobs, down from 61.1 per cent in 2019.
Meanwhile, the proportion of graduates who were in part-time employment increased from 25.5 per cent in 2019 to 31.6 per cent in 2020. Approximately a sixth of those in part-time or temporary employment were on the SGUnited Traineeships Programme.
Polytechnic graduates continued to pull a median gross monthly salary of S$2,400 monthly in 2020, similar to 2019.
Graduates from engineering, health sciences, and information and digital technologies continued to see consistently higher median gross monthly salaries over the last three years, compared to all graduates.
3. Senior Minister Tharman urges employers to avoid bias towards mature employees
In a forum on employment and skills, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam urged employers to be more sensitive and utilise government schemes to employ and train mature workers, saying that employers in Singapore are still biased towards these individuals.
Mr Tharman went on to add that such a move would benefit both workers and firms looking at a tight labour market, particularly with the tightening of foreign workers’ policies. He urged Singapore employers to “take full advantage of our Singapore workforce”.
Addressing challenges faced by mature employees, Mr Tharman explained that the issues are not limited to just skills matching errors. To help these employees, employers need to be prepared to employ, retrain skills and enhance the skills of these mature employees who already have important skills.
In particular, Singapore has an experienced workforce that are willing to learn and work hard. Thus, the government has adjusted its incentives such as the Employment Growth Incentive (JGI) for mature workers.
Under JGI, firms that increase the number of local employees will receive a subsidy of up to 25 per cent of their income for one year, depending on the limits set. This increases by up to 50 percent for those who employ workers aged 40 and above.
For these schemes to be successful, however, Tharman suggests that it requires a change of attitude on the part of the employers, as well as “a new spirit of kindness towards our mature employees”.
4. Malaysia to impose two-week long MCO in several states from 13 January
Malaysia has imposed a two-week long movement control order (MCO), from 13 January to 26 January, in a bid to curb the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Five states – Melaka, Johor, Penang, Selangor and Sabah – and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya will re-enter the movement control order (MCO), which was first implemented in March last year.
Under the MCO, social gatherings will be banned, and dine-ins are not allowed at eateries. Only two people per household are allowed to go out and buy groceries, and citizens will only be allowed to travel within a 10km radius from home.
In a televised address to the nation, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin said, “Our health system can no longer afford to handle 2,000 daily Covid-19 cases. It is at a breaking point. To break the COVID-19 chain, the government, with the advice of the Health Ministry, has decided to implement the MCO for a period of 14 days.”
Meanwhile, the states of Pahang, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan will be placed under a conditional MCO, while Perlis and Sarawak will be placed under the recovery phase of the MCO.
States under the conditional MCO will have most businesses operating, but with religious, cultural, recreational, and sporting activities being prohibited. Those under the recovery MCO will be allowed to have social gatherings and inter-state travels, but with some limitations.
Malaysia has seen a spike in cases since last September, when a third wave of infections hit. As of 11 January, the country has a total of 138,224 cases and 555 deaths.
5. Temasek Foundation launches $100,000 fund to support self-funded athletes
Temasek Foundation has launched a fund to support athletes who are not currently supported by existing grants or other forms of funding support.
Known as the Temasek Foundation Inspire Fund, it seeks to provide a “leg up” to promising athletes who represent Singapore at international competitions.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said, “The fund sets no age limit or restriction on types of sport, so this will benefit a wider base of aspiring athletes.”
The Temasek Foundation will contribute S$100,000 a year to the fund, which is jointly administered by Sport Singapore and National Youth Sport Institute.
The fund will award up to $50,000 in the first round of applications, which open to from 13 January to 12 February.
Interested athletes may apply at tfinspirefund.myactivesg.com.
6. Australia and China Grands Prix postponed due to COVID-19, season to start in Bahrain
Formula 1 organisers have announced that the 2021 F1 season will commence a week later than originally planned, and will take place in Bahrain instead of Australia, due to the COVID-19 situation in the latter country.
The season will now start with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 28 March at Sakhir, less than four months after the same venue held two races as part of the 2020 season.
The season was initially planned to take place in March, but was postponed to November.
In a similar vein, the Chinese Grand Prix has also been postponed, although no new date has been set.
“Discussions with the promoter and authorities in China are ongoing with the potential to reschedule the race later in the season if possible,” F1 said in a statement.
However, there seems to be no obvious back up date, as races in the second half of the season are organised back-to-back in three-week blocks.
The pandemic has disrupted the F1 season for two years consecutively, where last year’s race in Australia was cancelled after one team member tested positive for the virus.