Singapore in more danger of COVID-19 than before, state epidemiologist says in frank warning

A photo of David Lye superimposed on the NCID headquarters at Jalan Tan Tock Seng road, at right. Photos: NCID, Google Maps
A photo of David Lye superimposed on the NCID headquarters at Jalan Tan Tock Seng road, at right. Photos: NCID, Google Maps

Singapore may be in a more dangerous situation than it was prior to last year’s partial lockdown, according to National Centre for Infectious Diseases academic whose warning has been circulating online in recent days. 

Associate Professor David Lye, who heads the center’s infectious disease research and training, confirmed that he was behind the viral message warning of greater public health peril but said it was written in his “personal capacity.” In it, Lye noted the new virus variants threatening the population as well as more cases that could not be traced to their source unlike last year, when most broke out in worker dormitories that could be contained under lock and key.

“Our current status is likely more dangerous than just before circuit breaker last year,” he wrote in the messages. “The many cases with no linkage now suggest the spread to [the] community from the Changi Airport outbreak may be wide and far.”

Lye admonished the public to adhere to strict behavior to remain safe in a message more emotionally charged than that of typically restrained public health missives.

“If you want to keep your family safe, you need to listen […] If a country is overwhelmed like India, many will die including children and young people,” he added. About half of those infected in Singapore have no visible symptoms but were “equally infectious,” he said, and that 10% of people could still get sick enough to require oxygen assistance.

Despite the ongoing vaccination program that has so far inoculated roughly 30% with at least a first dose, Lye said one can still be vulnerable to the imported variants, especially when “not enough vulnerable old people” were being vaccinated.

“Yes we have effective vaccines and treatment, and expanded testing capacity but against us [are] the new mutant strains that infected TTSH and Changi Airport staff despite masks and vaccination,” he wrote. “My colleagues and I do not want to see you in NCID or any of the public hospitals.”

The outbreak at Changi Airport has led to nearly 80 infections while the one at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, or TTSH, has led to 46 cases. Singapore confirmed another outbreak at the Marina Bay Sands Casino yesterday, affecting three people so far. 

Lye urged Singaporeans to not only abide by the prevailing COVID-19 rules, but to also act as if they were under a full lockdown by staying at home, avoiding crowds, wearing masks, and socializing within the same “bubble” of people. 

The medical expert did not respond to Coconuts’ messages requesting for comment, including questions on why he decided to disseminate information this way. 

Singapore reimposed tighter restrictions last week as it reports more cases involving those infected by the B1617 coronavirus variant discovered in India. More than 40 cases reported in the past week were unrelated to known outbreaks. 

Today, 27 locally transmitted infections were added to the daily COVID-19 count, including 11 unlinked cases. In total, there have been 61,613 cases and 31 deaths since the outbreak began.

Other stories you should check out:
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Singapore ‘on the knife’s edge’ but could get COVID under control: Lawrence Wong
COVID-19: Singapore’s largest outbreak now taking off at Changi Airport
No lesson learned: Singapore responds to COVID restrictions with immediate panic-buying (Photos)
Singapore cuts social gatherings to two, bans dining out

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