Singapore ’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has warned that the city state could experience its next Covid-19 wave in July or August as antibody levels among vaccinated and infected people begin to wane. Based on observations in the United States and Europe , where infections increased due to BA. 4 and BA. 5, the potential wave would be fuelled by the two new sub-variants of the virus. “Once a wave subsides, four to six months later, we should expect another wave to rise,” Ong was quoted as saying by The Straits Times on Sunday. “Nothing will happen until months later when our antibodies start to wane, then you can see BA. 4 and BA. 5 emerging by July or August … that’s our estimate,” he said. Hong Kong vs Singapore: a look at the Covid-19 numbers that truly matter Singapore reported its first local cases of the new sub-variants – first detected earlier this year in South Africa and has since been its dominant strain – on May 15. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health, both sub-variants contain mutations, making them harder to detect by antibodies, as well as more contagious compared to their predecessors. But emerging evidence suggests the BA. 4 and BA. 5 variants would likely give rise to similar clinical outcomes as the previous strains that drove the Omicron wave, it added. Ong noted on Sunday that infections in Singapore linked to the new sub-variants were still lower than those tied to earlier strains, and said it was key to look at how many people fell “severely ill”. The city state has already been preparing for this potential wave by ramping up bed capacity while trying to get more elderly residents to take their booster shots. Currently, about 88 per cent of those aged 60 or above have received their third vaccine jab. “I believe that with our strong resilience, we can ride through a period of BA. 4 and BA. 5,” the health minister said. Singapore was hit by the Omicron wave earlier this year and saw close to 20,000 daily infections. But given the country’s high vaccination rate, most cases had either no or mild symptoms. Nonetheless, the high caseload strained the national healthcare system, as many residents with mild symptoms sought emergency medical care at hospitals despite directives for people to seek treatment from their primary healthcare providers. Also straining hospitals was how unprepared some facilities – such as community hospitals and elderly care homes – were for a spike in infections. Infected people in these places were subsequently sent to acute care public hospitals. “Every healthcare setting needs to be Covid-ready, to be able to handle your own infections, take care of them in situ,” Ong told a seminar last Thursday. “Because with vaccination, most will recover uneventfully.” Alex Cook, vice-dean for research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said there would undoubtedly be more Covid-19 waves, similar to how Singapore faces waves of influenza, dengue and other endemic diseases. He added, however, that future waves would likely be less damaging than past ones since there are now greater levels of immunity in the population that should reduce the severity of the disease even if people get infected. ‘We’ve learned to adapt’: Singapore to stay open even if new variant hits “Because of this, I don’t think Singaporeans need to be especially worried, and it would be extremely surprising if such a wave were to be severe enough to warrant societal interventions such as the reimposition of social distancing measures,” said Cook. “Rather, the next wave will hopefully need only institutional measures to prepare for the next wave such as hospitals preparing sufficient beds.” With 92 per cent of the country’s 5.45 million people having received two doses and 77 per cent taken the third, authorities embarked on the country’s largest reopening in April, lifting most Covid-19 curbs including its outdoor mask mandate. Singapore also eased its border restrictions significantly, which saw air traffic returning to 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.