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With only a few dozen deaths from Covid-19 and one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, Singapore wants to reopen its doors – and sets the stage for living with the coronavirus as it does with other common illnesses such as the flu.

Its medical experts say there could be hundreds of deaths each year from endemic Covid-19, similar to influenza. This pragmatic approach could serve as an example for other countries seeking to overcome bottlenecks as they scale up their own immunization programs.

“The only way to prevent death from disease anywhere in the world is to eliminate the disease completely and this has only been done for smallpox,” said Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Society. -Pacific of clinical microbiology and infection.

Singapore has only reported 44 deaths from Covid-19 since the outbreak began in early January 2020. This compares to around 800 flu-related deaths in a typical year, according to doctors, in a country of 5.7 million inhabitants.

“While the idea of ​​hundreds of Covid deaths seems shocking compared to the deaths so far and deserves efforts to prevent them, it is on par with the flu, which society barely cares about,” Alex said. Cook, infectious disease modeling expert at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

As many as 1,000 people could die in the next two years in Singapore if vaccinations among the elderly do not improve, he added.

Singapore is set to resume operations as usual, with 80% of the population fully vaccinated. Photograph: Suhaimi Abdullah / NurPhoto / Rex / Shutterstock

Experts predict that the majority of deaths will be in older people, who are not vaccinated despite being eligible for almost half of the year.

The country’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said this month that as the economy opens up Singaporeans must “be psychologically prepared for the death toll from Covid-19 to rise also”.

Three-quarters of Singapore’s population are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the country is expected to ease further restrictions in September when the vaccination rate hits 80%.

As of August 16, 80% of people aged 70 and over had been fully immunized, and those aged 60-69 were at 88%.

Singapore has reported six deaths from Covid-19 in the past two weeks, none of which have been vaccinated.

The first results of the mathematical models suggest that the predicted number of deaths among people aged 60 and over will be around 480 in 2022, said Teo Yik Ying, dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

Other countries that have had early success with the virus, such as Australia, are also changing their strategies to prepare for more Covid-19 deaths at a time when the disease is here to stay. But as one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, Singapore may be the first to show what it really means.

“If countries start to move towards an endemic Covid-19 strategy, it is expected that there will be more related deaths, although it is still not known how many of them will be excess mortality and how many would have occurred regardless of Covid-19, ”Teo said.

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