Australians should enjoy a “honeymoon” break from Covid-19 surges this summer, thanks to a population buzzing with newly conferred vaccine immunity and a national tradition of sun worship.
But for a glimpse into our near-future, Singapore experts say the “controlled wave” now sweeping the Southeast Asian city state is likely inevitable for Australia too.
Singapore is experiencing its steepest infection surge since the beginning of the pandemic as it transitions to a policy of living with the virus, with an average of 3000 to 4000 new cases a day.
More than 98 per cent of those are asymptomatic or mild, though in the past 28 days there have also been 300 Covid deaths — 70 per cent of Singapore’s total fatalities.
Regional infectious disease specialist Dale Fisher says the Singapore surge is partly the result of waning efficacy of vaccines rolled out earlier than in Australia, and the fact few Singaporeans had contracted the virus by the time authorities began easing restrictions.
“A couple of weeks after you’ve had the vaccine is when it’s most effective (80 per cent) in preventing transmission, but four to six months later it’s more like 40 per cent,” said Professor Fisher, an Australian-born adviser to the World Health Organisation and Singapore government. …
“What matters in Singapore is not that we have 3000 or 4000 new cases a day but that we have 75 empty ICU beds which gives us a bit of comfort,” Professor Fisher says.
“You can expect this to happen in Australia because it’s quite similar in that there’s very little natural immunity and vaccination rates are climbing.
“There will be these surges as the restrictions are pulled down, but the fact it is coming into summer in Australia – when everyone opens their windows and flocks outdoors – and everyone has been recently vaccinated could mean the surge won’t be as big as it could have been.
“I think Australia could have a bit of a honeymoon for the next few months, though I’d be a bit more worried in six months when you’re going back into winter.”
The peak vaccinations in Australia were in September. Six months later — by March 2022 — the honeymoon period for these vaccinations will be over and protection will be waning. A couple of months later and protection may even be turning to enhancement, where vaccinated people are more likely to catch covid.
Without boosters, by May and June of 2022 — as vitamin D levels drop and vaccine protection wanes or even turns negative — covid problems will emerge. That gives us time to change course.