Singapore could see as many 2,000 COVID-19 deaths annually over time, mainly among the elderly, but it was focused on avoiding excess mortality, a minister said on Monday, as the country battles its biggest surge in infections.
At 0.2% Singapore's COVID-19 case fatality rate is similar to the rate of deaths from pneumonia before the pandemic struck, said Janil Puthucheary, a senior minister of state in parliament.
It is also lower than other countries where cases surged before vaccination, he said.
"But it does mean that over time, the absolute number of deaths from COVID-19 will rise despite the best possible medical care," he said. "We could have perhaps 2,000 deaths per year from COVID-19."
The minister did not specify for how many years that estimate might apply. Singapore had 4,000 deaths per year due to influenza and other respiratory diseases pre-pandemic, he said.
More than 80% of Singapore's 5.45 million population has been fully vaccinated and almost all its cases are asymptomatic or mild. About 95% of those who died in the last six months were older than 60 years and 72% of those who died were not fully vaccinated.
Puthucheary said the country was trying to live with COVID-19 as endemic without excess mortality. "Though we will have deaths as a result of COVID-19, we will not see more overall deaths than we would in a normal non-COVID year."
The city-state extended curbs to contain the spread of COVID-19 until late this month, drawing some criticism from the public.
But the prime minister's wife Ho Ching said people should stop complaining.
"We are just spoilt kids if we keep on harping on our disappointment about dining and freedoms...let's do our best to help, instead of wasting our energies on tantrums and bitching," said Ho.
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin; Editing by Martin Petty and Sanjeev Miglani)