Singapore 'unique' even among countries with vaccine access: Ong Ye Kung

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·Senior News & Video Producer
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A helicopter towing the Singapore national flag flies in formation during the National Day Parade rehearsal held at Singapore's Marina Bay on 17 July. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
A helicopter towing the Singapore national flag flies in formation during the National Day Parade rehearsal held at Singapore's Marina Bay on 17 July. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Singapore's situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic is "unique", even among countries and regions that have access to vaccines, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (26 July).

"(Singapore is) perhaps the only country in the world, which has not suffered a collapse of our hospitals nor a high death toll, and at the same time achieved a very high vaccination rate in our population," said Ong while delivering a Ministerial Statement in Parliament.

"This uniqueness is due to the unity of our people, the trust amongst them, and between the people and government," added Ong, who is also co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19.

As of 25 July, about 54 per cent of Singapore's population has received two doses of an mRNA vaccine, with the government projecting that almost 80 per cent will be fully vaccinated by early-September.

Ong pointed to countries such as the US, UK, Israel and "many" in the European Union that experienced "major episodes of widespread transmission, their hospitals overwhelmed and with many fatalities". 

He also noted that Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, which had initially kept their outbreaks under control, were now finding it a challenge to get their residents vaccinated, "partly because their lives have not been very threatened by COVID-19".

No 'big bang' reopening

While the government is committed to finding a path towards normalcy and living with COVID-19, Singapore will not pursue a rapid reopening like in some other countries, said Ong.

"Ours will be a controlled opening. We are not going to do a big bang because, predictably, things will then blow up", he said, citing the examples of Israel and the Netherlands, which were hit with sharp spikes in infections and hospitalisations after opening up and then decided to "dial back" their approach.

Until Singapore reaches "sufficiently high" vaccination rates, especially among its seniors, it will still be vulnerable to "unexpected setbacks", Ong noted. Currently, the Singapore authorities are working to reel in the large outbreaks linked to the Jurong Fishery Port and several KTV nightspots.

"We are clear about the mission; our will is firm; and we have a broad plan. But we don’t have enough antibodies in us to ensure that we can follow through with our plans without a hitch," said Ong.

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