Singapore Is Seeing Daily Record COVID Cases. Here’s Why It May Not be a Bad Thing

Abigail Ng wrote . . . . . . . . .

Authorities in Singapore have tightened Covid measures as infections in the country rise to fresh record highs — but two health experts told CNBC they are not terribly concerned.

The country’s health-care system and workers have been strained by the increase in cases, and there is a need to slow down transmission to avoid seeing more infections in vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the health ministry said Friday when stricter measures were announced again.

For the next four weeks, group sizes for social gatherings will be reduced to two people from five people, and working from home will be the default.

Still, medical experts told CNBC that the latest virus wave may not be a bad thing since Singapore’s population is highly-vaccinated.

Many of the patients with Covid-19 have avoided severe illness and will gain further protection against future infection as antibodies fight the virus, according to Teo Yik-Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.

Around 82% of Singapore’s population has received two doses of a Covid vaccine. Health authorities on Sunday said 98% of infected individuals had no or mild symptoms over the last 28 days.

Case numbers may remain high for a few months, but the “vast majority” will be well protected by the vaccines and won’t fall seriously ill, Teo said.

“For these people, infection will not have any short-term or long-term consequence to their health, but may additionally trigger a natural immune response which reduces the chance of subsequent infection,” he said in an email.

Potential benefits of natural infection
Letting the virus transmit slowly through the population is “not necessarily a bad thing,” said Ooi Eng Eong, a professor in Duke-NUS Medical School’s emerging infectious diseases program.

The two main vaccines used in Singapore are developed by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, and both use the messenger RNA technology.

mRNA vaccines instruct the body to produce a so-called spike protein which is found on the surface of the virus that causes Covid-19. It is harmless, but triggers the immune system to develop antibodies so that the body will be able to fight off infection better if exposed to the real virus.

“If we get a natural infection, our immune system will be able to recognize a larger part of the virus” as opposed to just the spike protein, Ooi said, adding that it could make a person more resilient against future variants.

Instead of infection followed by vaccination, we’re going to go vaccination followed by infection, which I think is even better because infection will mostly be mild.

He said Singapore could reap the benefits of natural infection that some parts of Europe and North America are experiencing, but in the reverse order.

“Instead of infection followed by vaccination, we’re going to go vaccination followed by infection, which I think is even better because [infections] will mostly be mild,” he said.

“Those [countries] that had high rates of disease last year paid the price” of higher death rates, he told CNBC.

More new variants?

When asked if widespread transmission of Covid could lead to new variants emerging, Ooi acknowledged that it’s difficult to predict what will happen.

However, he pointed out that future variants will have to compete with the “very transmissible” delta variant, the dominant strain worldwide.

“It’s very hard to beat delta,” he said.

There were also concerns about mu, a new variant of interest, but it couldn’t take off because delta was too strong, he said.

“Having said that, I think the wise thing to do is still to be prepared that something fitter than delta could eventually emerge, or that the new variant could escape the immunity produced by vaccination,” Ooi said.

Local Covid situation

The number of severe Covid cases remains within expectations, according to Singapore’s health ministry.

There were 172 cases that required oxygen supplementation, and 30 in the intensive care unit (ICU) as of Sunday. ICU capacity can be ramped up to 1,600 beds if needed, the government said.

The two professors who spoke to CNBC were split on the whether there’s a need for new restrictions.

Ooi said the current virus wave is “well within the limits” of Singapore’s capacity. The new restrictions are “unnecessary” and will slow down efforts to live with the disease, he added.

While Teo agreed that the situation wasn’t worsening, he said tightening measures are needed to provide “breathing space” for Singapore to make adjustments to operational and hospitalization protocols.

Hospital beds are filling up because of the country’s “very cautious” approach, and not because that many people need acute medical care, Teo said.

The long-term plan against Covid is a combination of vaccination and natural infection to provide protection while not overwhelming hospitals, he said, adding that he does not anticipate an increase in the death rate, but the absolute numbers can be expected to rise.

As of Sunday, Singapore reported 87,892 Covid cases and 78 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Source : CNBC

Read also at Reuters:

Vaccinated people make up 75% of recent COVID-19 cases in Singapore, but few fall ill . . . . .

McDonald’s Singapore Launched Crispy “Hainanese Chicken” Burger

Wani wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new week, a new month, and what makes this month special is Singapore’s National Day. I’m sure you’ve already caught wind of all the delicious promotions coming up to celebrate all things local but here’s one that’s made us extra excited.

McDonald’s has announced a collaboration with Mediacorp Artiste and Guest Chef Ben Yeo to design a burger inspired by Singapore—the Crispy “Hainanese Chicken” Burger (from S$6.60 for a la carte, from S$8.30 for Extra Value Meal™).

This tantalising-looking burger will launch across all McDonald’s® restaurants in Singapore and via Delivery on 5 August 2021, with just enough time for you to show your patriotism.

What makes this burger special is its sauces; the Crispy “Hainanese Chicken” Burger features a juicy, crispy chicken patty complemented by a trio of sauces that is commonly found to pair with Hainanese chicken rice—namely ginger sauce, garlic chilli sauce, and dark sweet sauce. What’s more, you’ll be able to drizzle as much (or as little) dark sauce as you please with the sachet of dark sweet sauce that accompanies every order of burger.

Source: Yahoo!

Vaccinated People Make Up 75% of Recent COVID-19 Cases in Singapore

Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin wrote . . . . . . . . .

Vaccinated individuals accounted for three-quarters of Singapore’s COVID-19 infections in the last four weeks, but they were not falling seriously ill, government data showed, as a rapid ramp-up in inoculations leaves fewer people unvaccinated.

While the data shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe cases, it also underscores the risk that even those inoculated could be contagious, so that inoculation alone may not suffice to halt transmission.

Of Singapore’s 1,096 locally transmitted infections in the last 28 days, 484, or about 44%, were in fully vaccinated people, while 30% were partially vaccinated and just over 25% were unvaccinated, Thursday’s data showed.

While seven cases of serious illness required oxygen, and another was in critical condition in intensive care, none of the eight had been fully vaccinated, the health ministry said.

“There is continuing evidence that vaccination helps to prevent serious disease when one gets infected,” the ministry said, adding that all the fully vaccinated and infected people had shown no symptoms, or only mild ones.

Infections in vaccinated people do not mean vaccines are ineffective, experts said.

“As more and more people are vaccinated in Singapore, we will see more infections happening among vaccinated people,” Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“It is important to always compare it against the proportion of people who remain unvaccinated…Suppose Singapore achieves a rate of 100% fully vaccinated…then all infections will stem from the vaccinated people and none from the unvaccinated.”

Singapore has already inoculated nearly 75% of its 5.7 million people, the world’s second highest after the United Arab Emirates, a Reuters tracker shows, and half its population is fully vaccinated.

As countries with advanced vaccination campaigns prepare to live with COVID-19 as an endemic disease, their focus is turning to preventing death and serious diseases through vaccination.

But they are grappling with how to differentiate public health policies, such as mask wearing, between the vaccinated and those who are not.

Both Singapore and Israel, for example, reinstated some curbs recently to battle a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, while England lifted almost all restrictions this week, despite high caseloads.

“We’ve got to accept that all of us will have to have some restrictions, vaccinated or not vaccinated,” said Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital in the Australian capital.

“It’s just the restrictions are likely to be higher for those unvaccinated than vaccinated people, but that may still mean they have mask mandates indoors, for instance.”

The Singapore data also showed that infections in the last 14 days among vaccinated people older than 61 stood at about 88%, higher than the figure of just over 70% for the younger group.

Linfa Wang, a professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, said elderly people had been shown to have weaker immune responses upon vaccination.

In Israel, which also has a high vaccination rate, about half of the 46 patients hospitalised in severe condition by early July had been vaccinated, and the majority were from risk groups, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear if the Singapore data reflected reduced protection offered by vaccines against the Delta variant, the most common form in the wealthy city state in recent months.

Two doses of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca are nearly as effective against Delt

a as against the previously dominant Alpha variant, according to a study published this week.

Singapore uses the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in its national vaccination programme.

Friday’s 130 new locally-transmitted infections were off this week’s 11-month high. The recent rise in cases prompted authorities to tighten curbs on social gatherings in the push to boost vaccinations, particularly among the elderly.

Source : Euro News

First-ever Commercial Sales of Cultured Chicken in Singapore

Following the recent and historic regulatory approval of its cultured chicken, Eat Just, producer of the JUST Egg which has seen success all around the world, commercially sold its GOOD Meat Cultured Chicken to customers last Saturday, December 19th, at Singaporean events establishment 1880.

The dishes was prepared by 1880 Executive Chef Colin Buchan, former private chef to David and Victoria Beckham. The first diners were young people age 14-18 who have shown a commitment to building a better planet.

Says Eat Just Founder Josh Tetrick: “This historic step, the first-ever commercial sale of cultured meat, moves us closer to a world where the majority of meat we eat will not require tearing down a single forest, displacing a single animal’s habitat or using a single drop of antibiotics.

“We’re thrilled to partner with 1880 to launch a product that will someday be served on the dinner tables of families living in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, to the skyscrapers of Shanghai,” he added.

“We are honored to host the global launch of Eat Just’s first cultured meat product. This is a revolutionary step towards solving climate change and creating the opportunity to feed the world without overwhelming the planet,” said 1880 Founder Marc Nicholson.

Source: Vegconomist

Singapore Food Agency (SFA) Issued World’s First Regulatory Approval for Cultured Meat

Eat Just, Inc., a company that applies cutting-edge science and technology to create healthier, more sustainable foods, today announced that, after a rigorous consultation and review process by SFA, its cultured chicken has been approved for sale in Singapore as an ingredient in chicken bites. The company has developed other cultured chicken formats that will be an extension to this product line.

The first-in-the-world regulatory allowance of real, high-quality meat created directly from animal cells for safe human consumption paves the way for a forthcoming small-scale commercial launch in Singapore of Eat Just’s new GOOD Meat brand, details for which will be disclosed at a later date. This breakthrough for the global food industry builds on Singapore’s reputation as a world leader in business, technology and culinary innovation and underscores the country’s dedication to enterprising solutions that advance environmental stewardship.

Cultured meat’s role in creating a safer, more secure global food supply has been well-documented, and the last decade has given rise to a steady increase in the application of animal cell culture technology toward the development of food products. At the same time, meat production has risen dramatically, and by 2050, consumption is projected to increase over 70 percent. Major public health crises have been linked to patterns of conventional meat consumption, hence, safer, more efficient and less environmentally harmful ways of producing meat are urgently required to satisfy growing consumer demand.

Over the course of many months, Eat Just’s team of scientists, product developers and regulatory experts have prepared extensive documentation on the characterization of its cultured chicken and the process to produce it. The company included details on the purity, identity and stability of chicken cells during the manufacturing process, as well as a detailed description of the manufacturing process which demonstrated that harvested cultured chicken met quality controls and a rigorous food safety monitoring system.

Eat Just has demonstrated a consistent manufacturing process of their cultured chicken by running over 20 production runs in 1,200-liter bioreactors. No antibiotics are used in this proprietary process. Safety and quality validations demonstrated that harvested cultured chicken met the standards of poultry meat, with extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content than conventional chicken. The analysis also demonstrated that cultured chicken contains a high protein content, diversified amino acid composition, high relative content in healthy monounsaturated fats and is a rich source of minerals.

Today’s regulatory achievement involved an iterative and extensive safety review by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), Singapore’s regulatory authority entrusted with ensuring a safe food supply. During this process, Eat Just complied with SFA’s food safety requirements for the assessment of novel foods. In addition, Eat Just’s cultured chicken was confirmed to be safe and nutritious for human consumption by a distinguished outside panel of international scientific authorities in Singapore and the United States, with expertise in medicine, toxicology, allergenicity, cell biology and food safety.

Concurrent to the consultation and review period, Eat Just formed strategic partnerships with well-established local manufacturers in Singapore to produce cultured chicken cells and formulate the finished product ahead of its historic sale to a restaurant and, ultimately, initial availability to consumers. The company has been impressed with the caliber of local partners helping to make GOOD Meat a strategic reality and further positioning Singapore as the Asia-Pacific region’s hub for food innovation.

“Singapore has long been a leader in innovation of all kinds, from information technology to biologics to now leading the world in building a healthier, safer food system. I’m sure that our regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the globe. Working in partnership with the broader agriculture sector and forward-thinking policymakers, companies like ours can help meet the increased demand for animal protein as our population climbs to 9.7 billion by 2050,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just.

Source: Business Wire