Living With The Omicron Variant Is Sensible As It Is Less Severe Says Experts

Living With The Omicron Variant Is Sensible As It Is Less Severe Says Experts
Source – CGTN Europe

Experts added that it is sensible to treat the Omicron variant similarly to other existing and previous Covid-19 variants since data suggests that the new virus is more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant.


Living With The Omicron Variant Is Sensible As It Is Less Severe Says Experts

Experts added that it is sensible to treat the Omicron variant similarly to other existing and previous Covid-19 variants since data suggests that the new virus is more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant.

After almost a month of tight measures to contain and prevent the spread of Omicron in Singapore, individuals infected with the Omicron variant have been permitted to recuperate at home or in community care facilities from Monday (Dec 27). 

Individuals infected with Omicron have been isolated at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases or at specialised facilities over the last month.

Close contacts were quarantined at designated facilities for ten days, and complete contact tracing was performed.

If Singapore still continued to treat the Omicron variant differently, (such as) hospitalise infected patients, then we will be at risk of scoring an ‘own goal’ in terms of filling up our healthcare facilities with relatively well patients," said Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious disease expert at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

The school’s vice-dean of research, Associate Professor Alex Cook, said: “I don’t think we could maintain strict contact tracing and isolation for long for Omicron anyway, and we would want to avoid revisiting the situation a few months ago when we had to repeatedly revise the eligibility criteria for home isolation.

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), none of Singapore’s Omicron cases has been severe, with none requiring intensive care (ICU) or oxygen supplementation.

However, the ministry highlighted that this might be partly explained by the fact that the majority of cases were completely vaccinated and were from younger age groups.

Professor Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said: “Now that we know that the Omicron variant is probably a lot less virulent than the previous dominant strains, we can move closer back to treating Covid-19 like other potentially deadly contagious respiratory infections such as tuberculosis or influenza.

Source - The Mercury News

However, it was prudent and critical to have strictly confined the Omicron cases over the last month, as it allowed the country to buy time and allow science to catch up with the concerns about the new variant, according to Professor Dale Fisher, senior consultant in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the National University Hospital.

Once a variant is identified, it will take some weeks to understand the outcomes. This was about slowing the entry and spread of Omicron until we knew the disease was not escaping the vaccine’s protection and was not more severe," he added.

Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of NUS’ Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said the country’s recent success in managing Omicron enabled it to extend booster distribution and intend to enhance its ICU capacity.

Singapore declared on December 14 that it is increasing its ICU capacity to 500 beds from 280 in order to prepare for the Omicron wave.

Prof Fisher said that Singapore was one of the first countries to recognise that Omicron poses no national concern due to a high vaccination rate.

Some countries are seeing overwhelmed hospitals again because Omicron is more transmissible and the baseline immunity of the population is still low.

Singapore is realising the strategy of Covid-19 resilience, such that as new variants arise, they can be dealt with quite easily.

However, specialists warned that dealing with Omicron after a lengthy and arduous struggle with Delta is detrimental to people’s emotional and physical well-being.

Prof Teo said: “The costs are definitely economic, and the overall mental well-being of our people, since we saw a suspension of our VTLs (vaccinated travel lanes) as well as a constant shadow cast over the economy by Omicron.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said that all VTL ticket sales for access into Singapore between December 23 and January 20 would be suspended.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday through Facebook that the Republic should prepare for a new wave of Covid-19 cases in the coming days and weeks due to the Omicron variant.

As of Saturday, there were 546 confirmed Omicron cases in the country, 443 of which were imported and 103 of which were local.

Due to Omicron’s increased transmissibility, researchers believe the Omicron wave will likely result in more infections than the Delta wave during the last several months.

However, Prof Fisher noted that if severe illness, hospitalisation, and ICU admissions do not increase, transmissions of mild disease of any variant does not matter so much.

We shouldn’t panic just because we see more cases. I do expect this to occur with Omicron and indeed with future variants and even seasonal fluctuations.

Prof Cook said that the country should take stricter measures to curb the Omicron growth only if the number of severe cases increases.

Prof Hsu’s greatest worry is for children under the age of 12 who could be unvaccinated during the wave since the vaccination programme for upper primary kids has just recently begun.

School is due to start next week and the majority may not complete their vaccination by the time our own Omicron wave peaks. We may see more hospitalisations among this group, even though the variant is not as deadly as Delta," he added.

Source – The Star

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