Singapore’s Karaoke Club Cluster Tests Covid Reopening Plan

Singapore’s karaoke club cluster is testing the city-state’s plans to progressively reopen, with officials rushing to control a surge in daily Covid-19 cases just weeks before it’s expected to reach its next key vaccination target.

“We are working round the clock to deal with the latest cases, to contain them, and keep our community safe,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the country’s virus task force, said in a Facebook post.

Singapore government leaders have said they intend to gradually ease virus-related restrictions as more and more people are vaccinated. It would be a pivot away from the earlier Covid-Zero strategy of eradication and toward managing the risks of a virus that leaders believe will be endemic.

Leaders are “deliberating on what additional measures to take and will give an update soon,” Wong said in a Facebook post. He acknowledged many are feeling “disappointed and frustrated” about the spike, adding that “we continue to take heart that the vast majority of Singaporeans have been responsible, and adhering to safe management measures.”

Singapore reported 42 new cases in the community Thursday, adding to the 56 the previous day, the highest level within the community in more than a year.

Health officials are also eyeing an emerging cluster at a ComfortDelGro driving center, which has been closed for two weeks for deep cleaning. The Ministry of Health said all staff would be tested, and it encouraged members of the public who’d visited since July 6 to be tested as well. ComfortDelGro Corp. dropped the most on the Straits Times Index Thursday, down 1.3%. It was holding flat as of 10:30am Singapore time Friday.

While the country is vaccinating quickly, it isn’t yet close to the mass vaccination goals that government leaders had set as key benchmarks, such as having two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated by National Day on Aug. 9.

Vaccinations Rising

“We are seeing very high take-up rates of over 80% across all age groups” except seniors, Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post late Thursday, referring to people who’ve had at least one dose of the vaccine as well as those who’ve booked their jabs. Seniors 70 and older, who have the lowest sign-up rate of any group eligible, are at about 71%, Ong said.

“This is unseen in other parts of the world,” Ong said of the country’s high take-up rate.

More than 71% here have received at least one dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccine, among the highest rates in the world for countries above 5 million people, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Vaccines are now widely available in the city-state to residents age 12 and above.

The rate of those with both jabs is just 43%, with many under age 45 still in that couple of weeks’ holding period after their first dose and awaiting the second.

Ong had told reporters Wednesday that the government didn’t plan to reverse its recent easing of social gathering restrictions, as it did after prior cluster outbreaks, saying the country was in a “much more resilient position than before” because of increased vaccinations.

To boost seniors’ vaccine rates, which he described as the “only worry” among the age-grouped cohorts, Ong said late Thursday that the country is pushing doctors to help call elderly clients to persuade them to get vaccinated. It will give private health clinics more vaccines to use, and deploy mobile vaccination units to make shots more accessible.

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