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Singapore tells unvaccinated they must pay for treatment if they catch Covid

People who are not vaccinated and fall ill with Covid-19 now have to pay for their own treatment in Singapore after the government withdrew support on Wednesday.

Singapore has covered the medical bills for nearly all Covid-19 patients since last year under a measure to ease the public’s financial concerns during the pandemic. 

But on Wednesday, the government lifted this policy for the unvaccinated, withdrawing free care for those who have so far chosen not to get the jab.

People who are not vaccinated and fall ill with Covid-19 now have to pay for their own treatment in Singapore after the government withdrew support on Wednesday. Pictured: People in protective masks sit at a food centre in Singapore October 23, 2021

Speaking last month, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said: ‘We have to send this important signal, to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible.’

Like a number of countries around the world, Singapore has adopted measures in a bid to convince vaccine hold-outs to get the jab.

Some European governments, for example, are tightening restrictions on the vaccinated by barring their entry into restaurants and offices.

The US has also taken some steps in the hope of increasing the vaccination rate, such as requiring companies with more than 100 employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated or produce a weekly negatives Covid-19 test.

But while the EU and the US currently have a fully vaccinated rate of 67 percent and 60 percent respectively, the percentage of Singapore’s eligible population that is fully vaccinated lies at over 96 percent, according to the government.

The rate – one of the highest in the world – has been put down to restrictions on the unvaccinated. For example, those who have not been jabbed are not allowed eat in Singapore’s food courts or enter shopping centres.

Speaking last month, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (pictured November 24) said of the policy: 'We have to send this important signal, to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible.'

Speaking last month, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (pictured November 24) said of the policy: ‘We have to send this important signal, to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible.’

However, some in the city state are still not convinced, with officials being particularly concerned with around 44,000 unvaccinated older citizens.

In November, the government said that roughly 95 percent of the deaths over the past six moths were of people at the age of 60 or older, with 72 percent of deaths being seen amongst those who had not been fully vaccinated.

Singapore saw Covid-19 cases spike in September and October, before falling sharply. The country is now seeing around 1,000 new cases per day amongst its population of 5.5 million people.

According to the Wall Street Journal, citing epidemiologists, Singapore is the first country to adopt a policy of withdrawing medical treatment and costs of Covid-19 patients to those who are specifically not vaccinated.

Some public health experts say the approach is warranted.

Hsien-Hsien Lei, chief executive officer of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore told the WSJ: ‘They tried everything. They provided information, they provided facts, they’ve had people telling their personal stories, they’ve seen the ministers go and get their jabs, what else can we do?’

Pictured: People enter a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination centre set up at a community centre in Singapore on October 7, 2021 (file photo). Singapore has one of the highest population vaccination rates in the world

Pictured: People enter a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination centre set up at a community centre in Singapore on October 7, 2021 (file photo). Singapore has one of the highest population vaccination rates in the world

Some, however, are opposed to the policy, with residents arguing that the practice is coercive and could discourage unvaccinated people from seeking medical care.

‘The basic public-health principle is to provide free treatment for highly communicable diseases,’ Paul Tambyah, chairman of a small opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Party, told the newspaper. 

‘This encourages people to come forward to be diagnosed and treated rather than remain in the community, where they may end up spreading the disease to even more people.’ 

Sabrina Chiu, a 47-year-old unvaccinated Singaporean, told the Wall Street Journal that she had chosen not to get the jab because she is allergic to many medicines, although doctors have not told her to avoid the shot. She said that it felt as if the government was indirectly forcing people to get vaccinated. 

People seated at tables in groups of 2 as mandated by Covid-19 safety restrictions drink at bars in Singapore on October 23, 2021. The treatment costs of nearly all Covid-19 patients have been paid for since last year under a pandemic era-policy to ease the public's financial concerns over the virus

People seated at tables in groups of 2 as mandated by Covid-19 safety restrictions drink at bars in Singapore on October 23, 2021. The treatment costs of nearly all Covid-19 patients have been paid for since last year under a pandemic era-policy to ease the public’s financial concerns over the virus

One doctor in Singapore, who chose not to be identified by the newspaper, said the measure sends the wrong message, and that healthcare should be for everyone.

A spokesperson for the Health Ministry told the WSJ the new policy ‘reflects a civic and moral duty each of us have to ourselves and people around us, during exceptional times like a pandemic crisis.’

Those who do fall ill from Covid-19 will still receive government support, they said, even though the government won’t cover the full treatment costs as before.

In Singapore, hospital bills for Covid-19 patients in intensive care wards can reach as high as $18,000 (£13,600), the spokesperson told the newspaper.

However, means-tested government subsidies for healthcare and the country’s national health insurance scheme significantly reduces these costs, with the bill more likely to fall to around $1,500 to $3,000.


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