The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) has been closely monitoring the recent resurgence of cases driven by the Omicron XBB variant (a recombinant strain of BA.2.75 and BA.2.10 sub-lineages). We note that the XBB wave is subsiding.
2. There are now multiple subvariants circulating globally, and new variants may also form. With the recovery in international travel, a new highly transmissible variant can enter and spread in Singapore without much advance warning. As such, we cannot be complacent. It is now even more important that we shore up our defences ahead of any future evolution of the COVID-19 virus, and prepare in advance to respond quickly should the need arise.
Vaccination as First Line of Defence
3. We have three lines of defence. Our first key line of defence is to keep our vaccinations against COVID-19 up to date. The protection conferred by our high vaccination rate has thus far enabled us to keep the number of severe cases and deaths much lower than in many other countries. As new variants of COVID-19 continue to emerge, we urge those who are eligible to take the bivalent vaccine as an additional vaccine dose, to ensure they continue to have good protection against COVID-19.
4. Individuals aged 50 years and above and healthcare workers were prioritised to receive an additional dose of bivalent vaccine as they are at higher risk of severe illness and exposure to COVID-19 respectively. There has been good uptake of the Moderna/Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1 vaccine since its roll-out. As of 2 November 2022, over 65,000 individuals have received the bivalent vaccine dose, or have booked an appointment.
Extension of Bivalent Booster to Younger Age Groups
5. From 7 November 2022, we will progressively invite eligible individuals aged 18 to 49 years to receive an additional dose of the bivalent vaccine. In particular, those who have yet to complete their minimum protection series should do so as soon as possible. Those who are eligible will receive an SMS with a personalised booking link to make an appointment at one of our Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres (JTVCs). We will start by inviting individuals in the 40 to 49 age group in the initial phase, before gradually moving on to the lower age groups. We seek your patience and understanding that the SMS may take a couple of weeks to reach everyone. To avoid overcrowding the JTVCs, we will only facilitate walk-ins for persons aged 50 years and above and healthcare workers. To locate the nearest JTVC and their operating hours, please visit https://www.gowhere.gov.sg/vaccine.
6. The Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty bivalent Original-Omicron BA.4/5 vaccine has recently been approved locally for use in individuals aged 12 years and above. Supplies are expected to arrive towards the end of the year and more details will be shared later. Individuals, including children, are encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccines recommended for them as soon as they are eligible to do so to ensure timely protection. They are encouraged not to delay vaccination to wait for specific vaccines that may become available only in the future.
7. With the latest extension, all adults aged 18 years and above should ensure that they keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination. This means that after achieving minimum protection, they should receive an additional booster dose between five months to one year from their last dose. The updated bivalent vaccine is recommended for this. Individuals will be considered up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination if they have received at least the minimum protection and their last vaccine dose was received within the past one year. The vaccination recommendations to meet the up-to-date definition are summarised in Annex A.
Sinovac-CoronaVac Allowed for Booster Vaccination
8. Since 7 October 2022, persons aged 18 years and above can take the Sinovac-CoronaVac as a booster, without the need for proof of medical ineligibility to mRNA or Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccines. This is to encourage those who have been vaccinated with three doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac to achieve a minimum level of protection against COVID-19 with the fourth dose, although the recommendation is still for these individuals to receive the updated Bivalent Moderna/Spikevax, Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccines for better protection. We strongly urge individuals who have received three doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac to receive their fourth vaccine dose if they have not yet done so.
Regular Self-Testing for Early Detection
9. Our second key line of defence is regular self-testing to enable early detection and isolation, particularly when one is unwell, coming back from overseas travel, or before visiting/ interacting with vulnerable groups such as the elderly.
10. As reinfections become more common, those who experience symptoms like cough, sore throat, runny nose or fever, after 28 days from their previous infection, should also test themselves for COVID-19. Those who test positive should follow Protocol 1-2-3. Higher risk individuals (e.g. the elderly or immunocompromised) or those with severe symptoms should seek medical attention. Low-risk individuals with mild symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat) should continue to monitor themselves closely for signs and symptoms of concern while recovering at home. If signs and symptoms worsen, they should also see their family doctor. Members of public are encouraged to only go to the Emergency Department (ED) for emergency conditions. Those who test negative but feel unwell should also reduce social interactions because their illness may be due to other respiratory viruses such as influenza.
11. To encourage Singaporeans to self-test, the MTF will conduct a fourth round of Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kit distribution. Each household will receive 12 ART kits, with deliveries starting from 21 November 2022. As it is the peak holiday season and there is a high volume of ART kits being delivered, we seek the public’s understanding that some households may receive kits later than others. In the meantime, ART kits are available for purchase from various retailers island-wide.
12. The Government will continue to support lower income households who may require more ART kits beyond what the Ministry of Health (MOH) is providing. Beneficiaries of the Social Service Offices and Family Service Centres may continue to request additional ART kits at these locations. MOH will also be working with the Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development Agency to provide these additional ART kits to students from lower-income households. More information on the provision of these ART kits would be separately shared with students and parents at a later date.
Exercising Personal Responsibility To Protect Our Community
13. Our third key line of defence is to practise personal and social responsibility. Living with COVID-19 means we must become used to a resurgence of cases due to a new variant from time to time. We must take appropriate measures to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, such as by keeping our vaccinations up to date, testing when necessary and maintaining personal hygiene.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
4 NOVEMBER 2022