More Covid cases expected

On the move: People walking around Raffles Place in January 2020. ‘Whenever we can open, we will open up further,’ says Ong. — AFP

SINGAPOREANS should expect a new wave of Covid-19 infections with more people travelling and due to the year-end festivities, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

“With more travel and with Christmas and the New Year coming and people going out, there are bound to be more infections, but it is not something we have never seen before,” Ong said.

“This year we have seen three waves. The first two were Omicron: BA.2, then BA.5 and then XBB.

“So there will be a new wave.”

The BA.2 Omicron wave peaked here in March, and its BA.5 sub-variant led to a wave of infections in June and July. Singapore then rode through the XBB variant in October and November.

What is more important is to monitor developments overseas and watch if a new variant of concern emerges when winter hits the northern hemisphere, said Ong, who spoke to reporters at Nanyang Junior College during an event organised by the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC).

The European Union’s drug agency said in August that entirely new Covid-19 variants could emerge this winter, and that these new variants might end up being closer to earlier Omicron strains that has now been overtaken by the BA.4 and 5 types.

What happens in China will also matter.

Ong said: “When China opens up more – it looks like they are shifting their policy – and if they do so, then there will bound to be more infections. You can see that more people are infected in China and given the density and enormous population, there are bound to be new variants.”

On how Singapore will respond, he said: “For the past year, our direction has been very clear and I hope people see that too. (And that is) whenever we can open, we will open up further.” — The Straits Times/ANN

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