Singapore is seeing daily record Covid cases. Here's why it may not be a bad thing

On September 7, 2021, people walked along the pedestrian crossing in Singapore's Orchard Road shopping area. Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images
SINGAPORE Authorities have increased Covid measures in Singapore as the number of infections has risen to new records. However, two experts in health told CNBC that they are not concerned. As a result, the country's health-care system has been stretched and workers have had to deal with increased cases. However, two health experts told CNBC that they are not concerned about the need to slow down transmission in order to prevent more infections in elderly and vulnerable populations. The next four weeks will see a reduction in the number of people invited to social events from five to two. Those who choose to work from home will have to take the lead. CNBC still heard from medical experts that the virus may not have been a problem because Singapore is a highly-vaccinated country. Teo YikYing, dean of The Saw Swee Hock Schools of Public Health at National University of Singapore, said that many of the Covid-19 patients have not been diagnosed with severe illness. They will be protected against the virus by antibodies.

Around 82% of Singaporeans have received two doses Covid vaccine. According to health authorities, 98% of those infected had only mild or no symptoms for the past 28 days. Teo stated that while the number of cases may be high for some time, the vast majority will be well protected and not become seriously ill by vaccines. In an email, Teo stated that infection would not have any long-term or short-term consequences for these individuals, but could trigger a natural immune reaction which may reduce the likelihood of another infection.

Natural infection has potential benefits

Ooi Eng Eong, a Duke-NUS Medical School professor in the emerging infectious diseases program, said that allowing the virus to spread slowly through the population "is not necessarily a bad idea." Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech developed the two major vaccines in Singapore. They both use messenger RNA technology. The body is instructed to make a spike protein by mRNA vaccines. This spike protein can be found on the virus surface that causes Covid-19. Although it is harmless, it triggers the immune system's development of antibodies that will allow the body to better fight infection if exposed to the true virus. Ooi stated that if we have a natural infection, the immune system will recognize more of the virus than just the spike protein. This could increase resistance to future versions.

We're moving away from vaccination and infection. Instead, we will be going for vaccination followed by infection. This is my opinion because it is much more effective. Ooi Eng Eong Professor, Duke-NUS Medical School

He suggested that Singapore could benefit from natural infection, just as some other parts of North America and Europe. However, it would be in reverse order. He said, "Instead of infecting followed by vaccination, we're moving to vaccination followed by infection. This is better because infections will be mostly mild." He said that countries with high death rates last year "paid the price" for having higher rates of disease.

Are there any other new models?

Ooi was asked whether Covid transmission could lead to new Covid variants. He said that it is difficult to predict what might happen. Ooi pointed out, however, that future variations will need to compete with the "very transmissible delta variant", the dominant strain in the world. He said, "It's very difficult to beat delta." He also mentioned concerns about mu, another variant of interest. However, it was too weak to take root because delta was already strong. Ooi stated that despite this, it was wise to prepare for something better than delta, or the possibility that the new variant might escape the immunity that vaccinations have given.

Situation for Local Covid

According to Singapore's health ministry, the number of severe Covid cases is still within normal limits. As of Sunday, there were 172 cases that needed oxygen supplementation and 30 in ICU. The government stated that the ICU can be increased to 1,600 beds if necessary. CNBC spoke with two professors, who were divided on whether new restrictions are necessary. Ooi stated that the current wave of the virus is well within the limits of Singapore's ability to handle it. He said that the new restrictions were unnecessary and would slow down efforts to manage the disease. Teo said that while the situation isn't getting worse, tightening measures were necessary to allow Singapore "breathing room" to adjust its hospitalization and operational protocols.