scorecardFLiRT-ing with pandemic! With a sharp rise in COVID cases, could Singapore be witnessing the start of a global wave?
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FLiRT-ing with pandemic! With a sharp rise in COVID cases, could Singapore be witnessing the start of a global wave?

FLiRT-ing with pandemic! With a sharp rise in COVID cases, could Singapore be witnessing the start of a global wave?
LifeScience2 min read
COVID-19, the unwelcome guest that never quite leaves, may well be in the process of ushering in a fresh global wave, with Singapore potentially on the front lines.

The Singapore government is on alert, with its Ministry of Health reporting a significant rise in COVID-19 cases. There was a doubling of infections in the first half of May, with the numbers increasing from 13,700 in the first week of this month to 25,900 in the second (May 5 to 11).

Hospitalisations have also spiked, with average daily admissions rising from 181 to around 250 in the same period. To manage hospital bed capacity, public hospitals have been directed to reduce non-urgent elective surgeries and transfer suitable patients to care facilities.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has indicated that Singapore is in the early stages of this wave, which is expected to peak between mid- and end-June.

Recognising Singapore's role as a major transport and communications hub, Ong has acknowledged that the city-state is likely to experience COVID-19 waves earlier than other regions. An uptick in infection numbers has also been observed in the neighbouring countries as well, including Philippines. However, no alarming rise in hospitalisation has been reported yet.

Regional reports are attributing this surge to new COVID-19 variants, collectively termed FLiRT. This name is based on the technical names for their mutations, one of which includes the letters "F" and "L", and another, the letters "R" and "T". The FLiRT group comprises of variants KP.1, KP.2, KP.3, JN.1.1 and JN.1.7.

At present, KP.1 and KP.2 make up over two-thirds of cases in Singapore. While the WHO has classified KP.2 as a variant under monitoring, there is no evidence suggesting these variants are more transmissible or cause more severe illness than existing strains.

Nevertheless, Ong has urged high-risk groups, including those aged 60 and above, medically vulnerable individuals, and residents of aged care facilities, to receive an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose if they haven't been vaccinated in the past year. The public has also been advised to consider wearing masks again.

Ong emphasised that there are no current plans for social restrictions, as Singapore treats COVID-19 as an endemic disease. He noted that additional measures would only be considered as a last resort.

“COVID-19 is just something that we have to live with. Every year, we should expect one or two waves,” he said.

Meanwhile, 91 cases of the FLiRT variants have been detected in India. However, there have been no reports of severe cases or unique symptoms associated with these variants so far.

(With inputs from TOI)

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