Singapore has found 26 cases of reinfection: Health Minister
Singapore has seen 26 cases of Covid-19 reinfection as at Monday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday.
Such reinfections are known to be possible both overseas and here, he noted, but it is still unclear why they occur.
The minister said investigations are ongoing to determine if reinfections are from a general waning of immunity levels over time, or a lack of cross-protection - despite a previous infection - against specific variants of the coronavirus that a person is exposed to for the first time.
Mr Gan, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic here, noted that Singapore has detected 10 different variants of the virus among local and imported cases.
The emergence of new strains is not surprising as it is in the nature of viruses to mutate, he said. Their appearance in Singapore is also not surprising as the nation cannot completely shut its borders.
However, Mr Gan said, some variants, like the B16172 strain, are of greater concern because of their increased transmissibility, the severity of the illness caused and their potency in resisting vaccines.
The strain is believed to have sparked the clusters of cases at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the Tuas South community care facility. Three cases at Singapore's airport terminals were also found to have been infected with the B1617 strain.
The B16172 strain is a sublineage of the B1617 strain, which was first detected in India last October. It has been dubbed the "double mutant" because it has two major mutations on the spike protein of the coronavirus.
Mr Gan said Covid-19 vaccines, while not 100 per cent efficacious, can still prevent severe reactions to the infection and are likely to reduce the likelihood that an infected person will pass the virus on to another person.
As at Monday, there have been 56 cases involving people who were infected despite being fully vaccinated, of which 30 were local cases and 26 were imported ones.
About 57 per cent of local cases involving those who were vaccinated were asymptomatic, and none had severe disease requiring more intensive care, Mr Gan said, adding that this is consistent with international experience and emerging evidence.
Mr Gan added: "Overall, the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the known risks, and we must continue to encourage Singaporeans to be vaccinated."
He also noted that data on the need for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots is still emerging from both international and local studies.
"We will share more when we know more. Meanwhile, get the first two shots first."