SINGAPORE, Dec 31 — Travellers from China account for about 1 to 1.5 per cent of arrivals to Singapore by air, or about 700 to 1,000 travellers each day. Of these, 40 to 80 Covid-19 cases are detected on a weekly basis. All have had mild symptoms except for one Singaporean who is “severely ill” with the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) gave these figures yesterday (December 30) in a statement, recognising that there is “some public concern about the high level of infections in China” and the latest announcements to relax its border measures on January 8.
“At this stage of the pandemic, the most important factor is our population immunity,” MoH said.
“We cannot completely stop infections, and indeed the virus has continued to circulate in our communities, but we can ensure that infections result in few cases of hospitalisations and severe illnesses,” it added.
The authorities are watching the situation closely and will reinstate border health measures for selected countries if warranted by the public health situation, MoH said.
The ministry made a similar statement on Wednesday.
Singapore, along with several European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand, and other Southeast Asian countries are among those said to be monitoring the situation and yet to announce any tightening of border measures on travellers from China.
In contrast, other countries such as India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United States have announced new testing requirements for all travellers from China.
MoH said that the current epidemiological situation of Singapore has remained stable after the XBB infection wave in October, with a seven-day moving average of local Covid-19 cases at 729.
It added that the number of Covid-19-related hospitalisations has stayed below 100, and that the number of Covid-19-related patients in the hospitals' intensive care units continues to remain in the single digits.
The ministry said that Singapore is in a “stronger position to live with Covid-19, becoming more resilient with each Covid-19 wave”.
It highlighted its introduction of paediatric and bivalent Covid-19 vaccines as well as its efforts to bolster healthcare capacity with new Covid-19 treatment facilities and expanded transitional care facilities.
However, with caseloads having gone up in many countries, MoH is “closely watching” the global Covid-19 situation, with China of particular concern as it faces a large infection wave.
MoH flagged two specific concerns on how the global situation could affect Singapore.
First, the possible emergence of new and more dangerous coronavirus strains and second, the concern that travellers should not add a significant burden to Singapore’s hospitals.
Singapore has been working with its international partners, including German non-profit organisation Gisaid, which maintains a pathogen genomics database, to monitor the variants circulating globally, while also conducting its own genomic surveillance on domestic and imported cases, MoH said.
“So far, based on the sequencing results submitted by the centres for disease control of various Chinese cities, the strains circulating in China are known ones, and no new variants with greater transmissibility or severity than previously identified subvariants have been detected.”
MoH reiterated that as air travel with China is progressively restored, Singapore will take a cautious approach towards increasing seat capacity, taking into account the overall public health assessment.
Some Covid-19 rules remain
Many countries had previously fully lifted public health-related border measures, but Singapore did not do so and has keep some precautionary controls.
These include mandating that non-fully vaccinated travellers who enter Singapore must undergo a test within two days before departure from their country.
Short-term visitors who are not fully vaccinated are also required to obtain travel insurance with a minimum coverage of S$30,000 for Covid-19-related medical expenses.
All air and sea travellers are required to submit a health declaration upon arrival.
The ministry said that these measures reduce the risk of having severely ill imported cases, which can take up Singapore's healthcare capacity, and it will continue to maintain these prevailing vaccination requirements and border measures for travellers who are not fully vaccinated.
“We are watching the situation closely, including both upstream developments and the loading on our own healthcare system,” MoH added.
“We stand ready to reinstate border health measures for selected countries if warranted by the public health situation.”
TODAY - The Malay mail