1. The Ministry of Health has been monitoring the rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. About 45% of the COVID-19 cases in the community in the past week were cases with BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, up from 30% the week before. BA.5 alone is estimated to have contributed to 40% of all cases in the past week.
2. However, international and local data show that the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants do not result in more severe outcomes as compared to the earlier Omicron strains. Coupled with our population’s high vaccination coverage, the number of severe COVID-19 infections has remained manageable. Our hospitals and COVID-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs) are prepared to cope with the projected surge in cases. We also have contingency plans to ramp up our healthcare capacity quickly, if needed.
No Changes to Safe Management Measures (SMMs)
3. We will not be making changes to our SMMs at this juncture. Masking up while indoors will continue to be required, as a key line of defense. The current set of Vaccination-Differentiated SMMs for some higher-risk activities will remain unchanged. However, we are monitoring the situation closely, and do not rule out the need to tighten SMMs should the need arise.
Practising Social Responsibility
4. Meanwhile, everyone should continue to exercise social responsibility and take additional precautions in the coming weeks to protect ourselves and our loved ones. This can be done by keeping masks on while indoors; avoiding in-person interactions if you feel unwell or display COVID-19 symptoms; regular testing using an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) especially when feeling unwell or before visiting vulnerable family members and friends, including family members in hospitals and residential care facilities; and placing greater emphasis on personal hygiene. Symptomatic persons may need to repeat the ART daily over a few days to rule out the possibility of false negatives in the early stages of an infection.
Nationwide ART Kits Distribution
5. To support self-testing, MOH will be conducting a third national distribution of 10 ART kits to each residential household from 18 July 2022 onwards via SingPost. Due to the high volume of ART kits being distributed, we seek the public’s patience and understanding that it could take a few weeks for some households to receive the kits.
6. To support lower-income households who require more ART kits for self-testing beyond what MOH will be providing, beneficiaries of Social Service Offices (SSOs) and Family Service Centres (FSCs) may continue to request for additional ART kits at these locations. In addition, MOH will be working with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to provide ART kits on request to students from lower-income households. More information on the provision of these ART kits to be distributed by schools and educational institutions will be separately shared with students and parents.
Strengthening Protection Through Vaccinations and Boosters
7. The most important step to protect ourselves is taking our vaccinations and boosters. Three doses of mRNA vaccine (two primary series plus a booster) are needed to properly protect ourselves against the Omicron variant. Currently, there are still close to 70,000 eligible seniors aged 60 years and above who have not received their third shot or first booster. Family and friends of these seniors should encourage them to receive their booster doses without delay, so that they can stay protected against severe illness.
8. As for second boosters, not all individuals are recommended to take it. This is because after the first booster, the protection against severe illness remains very strong for most people, likely for a longer term. However, international studies show that some groups, even after the first booster, are at an increased risk of severe disease and will be most affected by waning vaccine efficacy over time.
9. The following groups of persons are therefore strongly recommended to receive a second COVID-19 booster around five months after their first booster:
- All persons aged 80 years and above;
- Persons living in aged care facilities; and
- Medically vulnerable persons aged 18 and above who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, such as those with medical risk factors (as listed in Annex).
10. For persons who do not fall into these groups, for now, there is no recommendation for them to receive a second booster. They continue to be well-protected against severe disease after their first booster dose.
11. Nevertheless, we have been offering the second booster to all persons aged 50 to 79 years under the National Vaccination Programme, and will continue to do so. They can choose to take a second booster if they are concerned about their individual risk of severe COVID-19 as this is around the age where risk increases as chronic diseases start to set in. Such persons who live with elderly or medically vulnerable family members, or intend to travel overseas, should consider taking up the second booster.
12. All persons eligible for their primary series vaccination, first booster or second booster may receive their doses by walking into any of the 10 Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres (JTVCs) located across the island. The full list of JTVCs, their locations and opening hours can be found at www.vaccine.gov.sg/locations/jtvc. Residents may also book an appointment at the JTVCs/ participating Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs)/ polyclinics via their SMS invitation.
13. From 27 June 2022, Mobile Vaccination Teams (MVTs) have been deployed to selected heartland locations to make it even more convenient for our seniors to get vaccinated and boosted. The MVTs will be deployed at selected Residents’ Committee Centres at residential blocks and Community Centres. Each MVT will be deployed at a given site for two days before moving on to the next location.
14. MOH and the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and the level of protection against COVID-19 in various segments of the population. We will make recommendations for the second booster in younger age groups when there is a need to do so. In the meantime, such persons are strongly encouraged to receive their primary series and first booster dose if they have not yet done so.
Weathering the Next COVID-19 Wave
15. Singapore remains well positioned to be a COVID-19 resilient nation. We have sufficient resources and are well prepared to ride the impending rise in cases. While MOH continues to monitor the situation closely, living safely with COVID-19 is a collective effort. We urge everyone to take the necessary precautions, and remain socially responsible by observing the SMMs, conducting regular self-tests, and avoiding social interactions if one has fever or respiratory symptoms, or tests positive for COVID-19.