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Sunday, Dec 04, 2022

Singapore finds first local Omicron cluster, expects more cases

Singapore finds first local Omicron cluster, expects more cases

Singapore reported its first suspected local omicron cluster, a group of three Covid-19 infections traced to a gym, the health ministry said in a statement late Monday.

The potential spread of the highly contagious variant within the community is likely to prompt further concerns about new reversals in the city-state’s reopening as its worst virus surge yet subsides.

The rapid spread of Omicron in other European countries and the US have already prompted new curbs there to slow its surge. Omicron quickly became the dominant variant in the US, rising to 73% of all sequenced Covid-19 cases in the country from around 3% last week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

“Given its high transmissibility and spread to many parts of the world, we should expect to find more Omicron cases at our borders and also within our community,” said the health ministry.

Singapore maintains vaccinated travel lanes with several countries where Omicron has spread rapidly, including the US and Europe’s largest travel hubs. The VTLs require full vaccination and negative tests for boarding, with the promise of quarantine free entry following further tests on arrival.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in late November that Omicron’s arrival could require Singapore to “take a few steps back” in its reopening plans “before we can take more steps forward.”

Two of the three cases in Singapore’s cluster have been preliminarily confirmed as Omicron, while the third is pending. All who tested positive had no recent travel history and were fully vaccinated.

Mass vaccination

Singapore’s advantage in facing Omicron is its vaccination rate, among the highest in the world according to data compiled by Bloomberg. About 96% of those eligible for vaccination have been fully vaccinated, which amounts to about 87% of the total population. More than a third of the total population have had booster jabs.

Local Covid cases have fallen over the last two months, down from a high of more than 4,600 daily cases on Oct 27 to less than 200 on Monday. At the same time, Singapore has seen a sharp rise in imported cases, with over 90% of 49 infections found among travelers from abroad on the same day being caused by Omicron.

Singapore plans to begin vaccinating one of its last remaining groups, children age 5 to 11, later this month. Its first shipment of pediatric vaccine, from Pfizer-BioNTech, is due to arrive Dec 22. Details of the rollout are expected to be announced later today.

“With more Omicron variant cases detected locally and globally, vaccination is key to protect both the young and old,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post.

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