The Ministry of Health (MOH) has observed recent reports of increases in respiratory illnesses in countries in the temperate regions. While the overall incidence of respiratory illnesses in Singapore has remained stable, we have observed a rising number of local COVID-19 infections.
Global respiratory illness situation
2. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported an increase in respiratory virus activity, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), in parts of the northern hemisphere. Some temperate countries have reported or are anticipating rising numbers of respiratory illness during the winter months.
3. Regionally, there have been reports of increases in respiratory illness cases among children and adolescents in China. Based on available information from the WHO, this is likely a result of circulating respiratory pathogens that are not new. These include influenza, RSV, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and adenovirus. To date, WHO has noted that the increasing trend is not unexpected due to the onset of the winter season.
Local respiratory illness situation
4. The overall incidence of respiratory illnesses in Singapore has remained stable over the past month, and there is no indication of increases in severe respiratory illness, including in children.
5. However, COVID-19 infections, which contribute towards the overall number of respiratory illness cases, have shown a significant rise. The number of estimated COVID-19 infections has doubled in the week of 19 to 25 November 2023 (22,094 infections compared to 10,726 in the previous week). The average daily COVID-19 hospitalisations and ICU cases have remained stable.
6. As of 27 November 2023, EG.5 and its sub-lineage HK.3 remain the predominant subvariants locally, accounting for over 70% of the cases sequenced.
7. The increase in the estimated COVID-19 infections could be due to a number of factors, including the year-end travelling season and waning population immunity. Currently, there is no indication that the predominant subvariants (i.e. EG.5 and HK.3) are more transmissible or cause more severe disease compared to other circulating variants.
8. The public is advised to maintain good personal hygiene, and take precautions when they travel. When not feeling well, please wear a mask if you need to leave home, and minimise your work and social interactions, especially with the vulnerable.
9. Individuals are also advised to keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination. An additional dose at around one year after their last vaccine dose is recommended for those aged 60 years and above, medically vulnerable persons, and residents of aged care facilities. Beyond this group, all individuals aged 6 months and above are also encouraged to receive the additional dose, particularly for healthcare workers and household members/caregivers of medically vulnerable individuals.
10. The updated COVID-19 monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna/Spikevax vaccines have been available at our Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres (JTVCs), Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) and selected polyclinics since November 2023, and continue to be free.
11. MOH continues to monitor the global and local situations closely. With the start of the peak season for travelling overseas, MOH would like to remind all travellers to be vigilant and to adopt relevant travel precautions. Please visit MOH’s Health Advisory for Travellers at www.moh.gov.sg/diseases-updates/travel-advisory for more information.