SINGAPORE – The number of Covid-19 related deaths is likely to continue to go up over the next few weeks and months, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (Oct 9), as he urged seniors to get their jabs if they have not had them.
Those who have had their shots should get their booster shots to reduce their risk of severe infection, he added.
“If you are a vaccinated senior, taking the booster reduces your risk of severe infection by more than 10 times,” he said. “Or to put it in another way, to the virus, the booster shot makes a vaccinated 80-year old look like a much younger vaccinated 50-plus year old.”
A disproportionate number of the 142 deaths as at Friday were unvaccinated seniors, who account for 1.5 per cent of the population, but made up two-thirds of those who needed intensive care unit (ICU) care or died, he noted.
In his speech to the nation on the coronavirus situation, PM Lee noted that every single loss of life to Covid-19 is felt keenly, as he expressed his deepest sympathies and condolences to all the families of the dead.
“We feel every single loss keenly,” he said.
Despite the best efforts of doctors and nurses, not every seriously ill patient will make it through, and quite a few will succumb, just like with pneumonia, he added.
“Every year more than 4,000 people die of pneumonia, mostly elderly and with other underlying illnesses,” he said. “Over the next few weeks and months, we will likely see the number of Covid-related deaths continue to go up.”
Nearly all of the fatalities – which Singapore has managed to keep very low so far – were elderly aged 60 and above, and with pre-existing medical conditions.
The population was 83 per cent fully inoculated as at Oct 7.
“With more Covid-19 cases, already most of us have either met someone who has gotten Covid-19, or know someone who does. Sooner or later, every one of us will meet the virus,” said PM Lee. “This means all the elderly will meet the virus too. And for them, the risk is very real.”
The virus poses a danger to seniors aged 60 and above if not vaccinated, or 80 and above even if vaccinated, he added, noting that as cases grow, so will the number of elderly infected.
“If we reach 5,000 Covid-19 cases a day, every day we can expect around 100 to become seriously ill – not a small number,” he said.
Daily new infection numbers in Singapore have been above the 3,000 mark for four days straight, and around 1,000 since mid-Sept.
The prime minister said there were several things Singaporeans and the elderly can do to protect themselves and bring numbers down.
Authorities will continue to persuade the unvaccinated elderly to get their jabs, and for those already vaccinated to get booster shots to strengthen their immunity.
He called on seniors to take extra precautions by cutting back on dining-out sessions with friends, to lower their exposure to the virus. “By all means go out to exercise and get fresh air… We want you to stay well!”
PM Lee said younger folks living with seniors could also help by cutting down on their own social interactions, and testing themselves regularly.
He noted that another segment of the population that some are concerned about is children under 12 years of age.
Vaccines have not yet been approved for this group, and with cases growing, parents are understandably anxious about their kids catching the virus, said PM Lee. “Though the data shows that children with Covid-19 seldom get seriously ill, parents are still worried.”
He added that Singapore is closely tracking the progress of vaccine trials on children in the United States.
In September, Pfizer and BioNTech said trial results showed their vaccine was safe and produced a robust immune response in children aged five to 11.
Singapore’s multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic said in August that vaccination of children below 12 should start early next year, after safety and efficacy aspects have been studied.
PM Lee reiterated this on Saturday, saying: “We will start vaccinating children as soon as vaccines are approved for them, and our experts are satisfied that they are safe.”