Coronavirus latest: WHO renames Covid-19 variants to avoid ‘stigma’

Singapore’s government hopes to lift pandemic-related restrictions from June 13 if it can get a number of local clusters under control.

The health ministry on Monday confirmed 16 new cases of locally transmitted Covid-19 infection, of which 13 are linked to previous cases. 

Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister, said testing would be stepped up even if curbs were removed. “First, we must test faster, and more liberally and extensively,” he said. 

He said Singapore health authorities would introduce different types of tests. “Many different types of Covid-19 tests have become available, for example, antigen rapid tests, saliva tests, breathalysers, wastewater surveillance, even sniffer dogs.”

Lee added: “This will enable us to detect cases more quickly so that we can isolate them and ring-fence their contacts promptly, before the virus spreads further.” 

A runner and a cyclist cross the Jubilee Bridge in Singapore as the city state plans to end pandemic-related restrictions © Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg

He acknowledged that the clusters emerged after Singapore appeared to have the virus beaten.

“Unfortunately, we are also fighting new, more infectious variants of the Covid-19 virus,” the prime minister said, noting that both the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the UK, and the B.1.617.2 variant, which was first detected in India, had arrived in the city-state.

“More variants will inevitably emerge, and we will have to deal with them too,” Lee said.

The prime minister said Singapore was able to respond to the new threats.

“Barring another super-spreader or big cluster, we should be on track to bring this outbreak under control.”