Singapore received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this week.

SINGAPORE — A new year is in sight but old practices must hold firm as far as Covid-19 is concerned. So the days of safe distancing and wearing of masks when leaving home are going to be around for a long while yet, and such basic protective measures against the tricky coronavirus should be upheld as far as possible.Responding to TODAY’s queries on how the pandemic might play out next year, Professor Leo Yee Sin, executive director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), said she foresees that “life will not return to the pre-Covid era” and that the availability of a vaccine in 2021 is “not likely to be the end game”.It is not known yet how the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus that causes Covid-19 may evolve — but it is likely to remain in the living environment, judging from its characteristics.Prof Leo, who was instrumental in Singapore’s response to the 2003 outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), said: “In other words, we are probably not able to eradicate the Sars-Cov-2 like we did for Sars in 2003.”

As it stands, the global spread of Covid-19 shows no sign if slowing down

While Singapore has in recent months maintained a low level of community transmission and Covid-19-related death rate, World Health Organization figures show that the virus has infected more than 75 million people and killed more than 1.6 million globally since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago.


Prof Leo warned that the risk of Covid-19 cases going up in Singapore remains as long as the virus continues to spread in other parts of the world.“Looking into the near term, most temperate countries are now into winter and are reporting surges of Covid-19 cases. Although Singapore has maintained a low level of community transmission, we are not an isolated island cut off from the world,” she said, stressing that Singaporeans must not let their guard down.

Taking reference from the experience in other countries such as Australia and South Korea, Singapore may still have to adopt a risk- or situation-based approach to relaxing and tightening restrictions, Prof Leo said.

Although social restrictions may be progressively relaxed over time when the situation allows, fundamental safe management measures should not be dismantled, she cautioned. This includes physical distancing and the wearing of masks.Dr Shawn Vasoo, clinical director of NCID, said that these safety regulations are likely to be required even after vaccination begins and likely to continue even after a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated.Prof Leo said that it will take time to progressively vaccinate the population as well as for immunity to develop after completion of the dosing regimen.

Singapore received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this week.

Healthcare workers, seniors and the vulnerable are the first groups to get priority to the vaccines. The rest of the population will be able to be vaccinated by the end of 2021. Vaccination is voluntary, the Government had said.


MUTATIONEarlier this month at the 13th edition of Medical Fair Asia hosted by Singapore and held on a digital platform, those working in the region’s hospital, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, medical and rehabilitation sectors gathered to discuss the latest industry innovations and to network.

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