Singapore on Oct. 1 hit its record daily number of COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, despite vaccinating the majority of its population.
The Southeast Asian city-state recorded a new high of 2,909 COVID-19 cases on Oct. 1, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Oct. 2, but noted that more than 98 percent of infected individuals have mild or no symptoms.
“This is a result of having vaccinated the great majority of our population, who experienced mild illness even as breakthrough infections occur,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, we are ramping up our health care and response capacity to cope with the rising cases.”
The recent surge in infections of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, after the relaxation of some restrictions has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. It also tightened curbs from last week that limited social gatherings to two people and made work from home a default.
The government has said the tighter measures are “temporary breaks” needed to buy time to expand health care capacity, set up more isolation facilities, reach more of the unvaccinated, and get booster shots to those who need them.
More than 80 percent of Singapore’s population has been vaccinated against the CCP virus.
“We have already said because of our high vaccination rate, we are no longer focusing solely on headline numbers,” the minister of finance, Lawrence Wong, told reporters at a news conference on Oct. 2. “Our focus is on the people who are seriously ill and to make sure that our health care system is able to take care of them.”
The ministry of health statement noted that although daily case numbers are expected to rise this month, the rate of increase appears to have slowed down slightly, and the vast majority of COVID-19 patients currently are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and are suitable for home recovery.
The percentage of patients who require ICU care remains low, at about 0.2 percent, it said.
“However, with higher cases, this can translate to a larger absolute number. Currently, 34 ICU beds are occupied and we expect the number to rise,” the health ministry noted.
Officials didn’t specify how many of the newly reported cases were breakthrough infections in people fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Cases in Singapore are estimated to surpass 3,200 daily cases soon, and the city-state may even start to see 5,000 cases daily around mid-October, health officials said.
It comes after Singapore made headlines when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in May the government’s plan to “live with the virus” and gradually transition away from a “COVID-zero” approach.
“Our aim must be to keep the community as a whole safe while accepting that some people may get infected every now and then,” the prime minister said at the time.
The government has said that Singapore will expand its COVID-19 booster shot program this month amid the recent surge in infections, with residents aged 50 to 59 becoming eligible for a third COVID-19 vaccine dose beginning Oct. 4.
Health officials are also deliberating on recommending a booster shot for a few more population groups, such as for health care workers, frontline workers, and persons in “other vulnerable settings.”
The health ministry reiterated Singapore’s plan to live with the virus, saying that its aim has “always been to minimize deaths while re-opening our social and economic activities progressively.”
“This also requires a collective shift in our mindsets. We need to learn to live with the virus, and understand that for the vast majority, especially those vaccinated, it is not a serious illness.”
Reuters contributed to this report.