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Singapore isn’t shutting borders to Omicron. What’s its secret?

Singapore's move away from Covid Zero is being keenly monitored as the Omicron variation wreaks havoc on global markets. The government has so far refrained from altering course on its gradual border reopening, and analysts think there is still time to wait before panicking. Rather than follow Japan and Israel in re-closing borders to foreigners, Singapore maintained its current vaccinated travel lanes open, opting instead to increase traveler testing and halt further relaxing of travel and social restrictions.So far, Singapore has refrained from reversing course on its gradual border reopening.

"There is no need to fear or to demand significantly different management and containment protocols for this variety," said Ashley St John, an associate professor of immunology at Duke-NUS Medical School in the United States. "I do not believe it is reasonable to expect Omicron to be readily controlled. It is expected to spread significantly over the globe despite several controls, including testing and limited mobility."

Singapore's ability to avoid immediate harsh limits is due to one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, attempts to safeguard its healthcare system from illness outbreaks, and an already regulated pace of reopening, experts say. Southeast Asia's economy, which is heavily dependent on commerce and transportation, adopted a policy of coexistence with the virus when the highly transmissible Delta version rendered Covid-19 removal very difficult. It was the first among a handful of Asia-Pacific countries that had previously attempted to contain the virus.

"Border closures, especially in areas with high vaccination rates, are unnecessary," said Ooi Eng Eong, a Duke-NUS Medical School professor of emerging infectious diseases. "I have a suspicion that Omicron has already spread undetectedly to several locations. If Omicron is as contagious as Delta, then shutting borders would just postpone the virus's eventual introduction."

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Vaccination remains the greatest defense, Ooi argued, since even if the efficacy of an Omicron infection is reduced somewhat, immunization will almost certainly prevent the illness from advancing to a severe stage. Covid-19. Singapore recently permitted individuals from different families to eat together in groups of five at restaurants, despite the fact that more than 85 percent of its population is completely vaccinated against Covid-19 and new infections have been stabilized. Additionally, it progressively expanded its vaccinated travel lane program to other countries before postponing agreements with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia as a precautionary measure in light of Omicron concerns.

"If Omicron comes, it comes," said Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease expert at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. He thinks the variety will not put the Singapore government's determination to the test significantly. "The choice to shut or not hinges on hospital capacity, which has been significantly increased by the Covid-19 treatment facilities."

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Nonetheless, Singapore's officials seem to be taking no risks, Leong added, alluding to the country's move on Tuesday to increase border tests. Singapore's high vaccination rate could allow it to survive the new form rather well, based on the experience of similarly highly-vaccinated Portugal, where Omicron has evolved, he added.

To be sure, much about Omicron remains unknown, and Singapore has indicated that it would tighten up if necessary. Ong Ye Kung, Hong Kong's health minister, likened the situation to a game of snakes and ladders: if the variant proves to be more infectious than previous strains, significant setbacks in the pandemic fight will occur; if it proves to be more infectious but milder and less harmful, "it is actually a positive development." "We will work our way up to living with Covid-19," he said on Facebook.

"In the interim, we should exercise caution and take proper steps to limit Omicron, rather than allowing it to entrench itself in our community," Ong said at a Tuesday briefing. "I am convinced that when we learn more about it, we will learn to live with Omicron just as we did with Delta."

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Singapore isn’t shutting borders to Omicron. What’s its secret? (timeslive.co.za)

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