CNY Covid measures effective, but let's not ease up now: Experts
70 per cent of population should get vaccinated before Singapore rethinks current measures, says professor
The enhanced restrictions put in place for Chinese New Year last month may have helped control the spread of Covid-19 here during the festive period, but experts stressed that people must remain vigilant.
The multi-ministry task force had noted at a Jan 22 briefing that there had been a rise in community cases and about half of those with symptoms did not seek medical treatment.
So, before the Chinese New Year holidays on Feb 12 and 13, the task force imposed a cap of eight distinct visitors a day per household, down from eight visitors each household at any time.
People were also told to limit their visits to two other households a day, and to avoid shouting or cheering while tossing yusheng.
On Feb 19, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who is co-chair of the task force, said the measures introduced would remain in place for "a few weeks after festivities had ended".
Professor Josip Car, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, told The Straits Times on Wednesday that the enhanced measures worked on two levels.
First, the overall case count was kept low. Most of the new cases seen in the past months were imported. Second, the measures sent a clear message that the danger of Covid-19 had not passed but remained manageable to an extent.
Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, pointed out that elsewhere, culturally important events with a lot of socialising - such as Christmas in Ireland and Independence Day in the United States - resulted in epidemic surges.
"One imagines the tightening of measures (during Chinese New Year) and the community's forbearance of that, had a role to play in keeping transmission under control," said Prof Cook, who is also domain leader for biostatistics and modelling at the school.
But Prof Car cautioned: "We are still in no way out of the woods yet to be thinking of flipping a 'back to normal' switch."
He said about 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the population here should be vaccinated first before Singapore rethinks its current measures, adding that this may not happen for some time.
As at Monday, more than 549,000 people in Singapore have received the first dose of the vaccine. About 243,000 have received their second dose.
This means about 4 per cent of the population have completed their vaccination regimen.
Professor Dale Fisher from NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said the restrictions have generally kept community cases from spreading beyond household and workplace contacts.
"We mustn't get over-confident. People with symptoms must have a test so we can identify cases and stop transmission early," he added.
"Avoiding groups, social distancing and mask-wearing is as important as ever. This will still take awhile. We have done well but shouldn't let things slip now."