A former NSW Premier has called on Australia to follow this Asian country in adopting a draconian new rule for unvaccinated people.
Former NSW Premier Bob Carr has called on Australia to follow Singapore in denying free healthcare to people who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Singapore’s Health Ministry announced the harsh new measures on Monday, saying unvaccinated people made up a “sizeable majority” of those in intensive care and that they “disproportionately contribute to the strain on our healthcare resources”.
From December 8, the country will begin charging all Covid-19 patients who are “unvaccinated by choice”.
“Follow Singapore and legislate no medical or hospital expenses to be reimbursed to people who are not vaccinated without medical justification and then contract Covid,” Mr Carr wrote on Twitter.
“You ignored warnings and got the disease. You pay for your wilful stupidity, not the rest of us.”
Mr Carr’s comments drew criticism from some online.
“Covid has had some bad takes, but this is right up there. Unbelievable,” said Professor Greg Dore from the UNSW’s Kirby Institute.
Guardian Australia columnist Greg Jericho wrote, “Don’t mind me I’m just sliding down the slippery slope of stopping Medicare coverage for cancer treatment for people who smoked. What a horrible idea.”
City of Monash Greens Councillor Dr Josh Fergeus said, “How can someone as supposedly intelligent as Carr be advocating for a health system accessible only for those who made the ‘correct’ decisions about their health? What does that mean for smokers? People addicted to substances? Rock climbers? Skiers? Motorcyclists?”
As of Monday, 85 per cent of Singapore’s population fully vaccinated, with 18 per cent now having received a booster dose.
There were 3397 new cases reported on Tuesday and 1700 people in hospital, with 300 requiring oxygen supplementation.
Of the hospitalised, 140 were in ICU, with 72 of those critically ill. Singapore’s ICU utilisation rate is now at 72.4 per cent.
Over the past 28 days, Singapore has recorded 91,844 new cases, 98.7 per cent of whom had mild or no symptoms.
More than 500 people have now died with the virus.
According to Singapore’s Health Ministry, over the past seven days the number of fully vaccinated versus unvaccinated people critically in ICU were 0.5 and 5.2 per 100,000 population respectively.
Deaths among fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people during the same period were 0.1 and 0.9 per 100,000 population.
“The government is currently footing the full Covid-19 medical bills of all Singaporeans, permanent residents and Long-Term Pass holders, other than for those who tested positive soon after returning from overseas travel,” the Health Ministry said on Monday.
“This was to avoid financial considerations adding to public uncertainty and concern when Covid-19 was an emergent and unfamiliar disease. For the majority who are vaccinated, this special approach for Covid-19 bills will continue until the Covid-19 situation is more stable.”
The government will continue to cover Covid-19 medical bills for those who are ineligible for vaccination, such as children under 12 years old.
Health minister Ong Ye Kung said the government’s decision to cut off unvaccinated people from support was an “important signal” for those still hesitant about the jab.
“Billing will still be based on our current subsidy framework, subject to MediSave use and MediShield Life claims, so it will still be highly supported and highly subsidised,” Mr Ong told The Straits Times.
The nation of around 5.9 million, which is credited with having one of the world’s best healthcare systems, depends heavily on privatised medical services, which means unvaccinated citizens may already have financial coverage in the event they get seriously ill with Covid-19.
The country has one of the highest vaccination rates and despite its ambitions to boldly “live with Covid”, the government has been forced to tighten restrictions recently amid growing pressures on its healthcare system.
The spike in cases has left a number of experts in the field concerned, warning nations with similar vaccination rates to still be prepared for a bumpy few months.
Professor Dale Fisher, an Australian-born adviser to the World Health Organisation and Singapore government, says Australia should brace itself for a similar trajectory of rising cases following the easing of lockdown restrictions.
“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,” Prof Fisher told The Australian.
— with Alex Blair