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Posts tagged ‘Singapore’

Another coronavirus will hit humans within a decade, warns Singapore expert | The Star

Covid-19 is the third coronavirus to jump from animals to humans, but it will not be the last, warns Professor Wang Linfa, director of the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School.

Source: Another coronavirus will hit humans within a decade, warns Singapore expert | The Star

Should Singapore bring in vaccine?

New air quality reporting system to take effect on April 1

singapore-haze977658
Singapore’s high-rise financial district buildings obscured by haze on March 13, 2014. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)

The new Pollutant Standards Index, which was announced two weeks ago, will incorporate PM2.5 in its reading, a sixth pollutant parameter.

SINGAPORE: The government will implement the new air quality reporting system on April 1, a month earlier than planned.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said this is because the current improvement in air quality brought on by the rain could be temporary.

The new Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which was announced two weeks ago, will incorporate a sixth pollutant parameter, PM2.5 in its reading.

The heavy rains over the past week have been a welcome relief for Singapore which had just gone through one of the most severe dry spells it has ever seen.

However, it seems this respite will not last. The National Environment Agency said the haze could return by late March.

Singapore is expected to enter the inter-monsoon period in late March until May.

During the inter-monsoon period, winds are typically light and variable in direction and they may carry haze to Singapore if hotspots increase in central Sumatra.

Singapore enters the Southwest Monsoon in June, where winds over Singapore typically blow from the southeast or southwest. The Southwest Monsoon is the traditional dry season and Singapore could be affected by haze if hotspots increase in central Sumatra.

Authorities say most climate models are predicting that an El Niño weather pattern may develop over the second half of the year. Depending on the intensity of this phenomenon, Singapore may experience even drier and warmer weather.

Last June, Singapore experienced its worst case of haze in history, when the PSI hit hazardous levels.

Last month, Singapore narrowly escaped the haze thanks to prevailing northeasterly winds, even though the haze recorded in Riau, Indonesia, was even more severe than that in June 2013. The question is, will this year be worse?

Dr Balakrishnan said: “I cannot predict with certainty, but I want to say that because we are worried about an El Niño year, a drier year, and because we have seen that the level of burning in Riau this year was even worse than last year, it means we have to be prepared. We have to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.”

For this reason, authorities will start using the new PSI a month earlier than scheduled.

The new PSI may reflect slightly higher readings since it now incorporates six pollutant parameters including PM2.5.

PM2.5 are tiny particles that can travel deep into the respiratory tract and may pose serious health concerns.

Even so, health advisories issued by authorities remain largely unchanged, and healthy individuals can still carry on normal activities as long as the PSI is under 100.

However, authorities are advising employers to plan early.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “We want you to identify who are your vulnerable employees. We want you to work out adjustments to the work schedules so that when the air is not so good, you can decrease the level of physical exertion needed.

“Thirdly, we want you to have all the equipment necessary so for instance, if you need to get masks, this is a good time to go and stock up on the masks because there are lots available. The onus is on the employer to deploy the employee in a safe way, and to provide all the necessary protection.”

Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that the government has sufficient N95 masks in its stockpile.

He said the masks are not the solution. What’s more important, he stressed, is to prepare early and make adjustments based on the Health Ministry’s advisory.

For example, if the air quality worsens when school is in session, Dr Balakrishnan said schools may keep students in school for a longer period for their safety.

“If school is in session and the air suddenly deteriorates, we will not dismiss the students and ask them to find their own way home in times of high pollution. The students will be safer staying on in school in a controlled, safe environment, and that’s what the MOE (Ministry of Education) intends to do.”

– CNA/fa

via New air quality reporting system to take effect on April 1 – Channel NewsAsia.

PM Lee urges S’poreans to prepare for prolonged haze


Elderly women in Singapore displaying their N95 face masks after collecting them at a community centre. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)

 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged the nation to be psychologically prepared for a prolonged period of haze due to the dry season and monsoon winds.

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged the nation to be psychologically prepared for a prolonged period of haze due to the dry season and monsoon winds.

His comments came despite the slightly clearer skies on Sunday, with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovering in the moderate range for most of the afternoon.

“Today with the masks and the blue skies, we (can) relax a bit. Tomorrow it may come back again… because the burning is continuing. There is no rain, it’s dry weather, the winds are blowing from Sumatra to Singapore.

“We must psychologically be prepared to see this come, go, get a bit worse, get a bit better but I think this is a problem which is going to last a few weeks, maybe a couple of months until the start of the rainy season which may be September/October.”

The prime minister also added that Singapore is very serious about the haze problem and that Indonesia understands this.

“It is affecting us and we want the problem to be solved. Indonesia is a big country and the government doesn’t reach all parts of the country.

“In the short term, we have to get the Indonesians to try and put out the fires and to stop people from starting more fires… In the long term, they have to have the right way of farming and cultivating so that you don’t have farmers burning like this all the time.”

When asked if there were differences between the current haze problem and the SARS episode ten years ago, the prime minister said: “There are some interesting differences. The first thing is SARS can kill you, if you get sick it’s a very serious matter. The haze, if you are ill, can make your illness worse for most people. The haze is an inconvenience but life can carry on.

“Secondly, SARS is infectious… the haze is not infectious. Also with haze we are not talking about something so poisonous that you must avoid contact.”

Speaking at a townhall meeting, Mr Lee said PSI readings will fluctuate day-to-day and hour-to-hour.

However Singaporeans must take this in their stride, adapt and continue with their lives.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said: “I understand the clamour for people saying we should stop work. We do that when particular incidents happen, when we need to freeze. But we need to also look at things in context. This particular situation is serious but it is not SARS, it’s not even dengue where fatalities can happen. This is something for those with vulnerabilities and is being aggravated by the haze conditions.

“If you are a crane operator and you are hoisting up heavy loads and visibility is bad, I would say you would stop until visibility improves, when you sense it is safe to do it. That applies when there is haze or no haze.”

The prime minister also emphasised that Singaporeans must avoid speculation and clarify rumours.

He added that they can do so by checking the haze microsite.

Mr Lee also urged Singaporeans to help their neighbours, especially older Singaporeans and young children.

He said community clubs have air conditioned haze shelters and that more are being created throughout Singapore.

On the supply of the N95 masks, Mr Lee noted that the government is urgently delivering them to clinics, pharmacies and retailers, and that there is no need to hoard or panic-buy the masks.

– CNA/fa/jc

via PM Lee urges S’poreans to prepare for prolonged haze – Channel NewsAsia.

With Your Second-Hand iPhone and These New Healthcare Apps, Singaporean Seniors Have a Lifeline

Silverline app for seniors

A group of Singaporean seniors with their donated phones from the Silverline project.

 

“Why build new hardware when the world is full of amazing iPhones and Android devices?” With that idea, one civic-minded startup in Singapore is building specialist apps for senior citizens that will then be given to elderly folks on donated phones. Called Project Silverline, it’s launching a crowdfunding campaign today on Indiegogo that’s aiming to raise US$50,000.

Essentially, Silverline is a suite of healthcare and personal safety apps (pictured below) that are made with seniors in mind, with large icons and clear, simple text. Among the five current apps are ‘Connect’, which is a replacement for the phone’s contacts app; ‘Well Being’ provides alarms for things like taking medicine; and the ‘Emergency’ app gives one-tap access to Singapore‘s police or ambulance hotlines. The apps are initially available for iOS and can run on older handsets, such as an iPhone 3GS, so that they work fine on the kind of repurposed devices they hope youngsters will donate in a charitable fashion.

Silverline is being backed by local telco SingTel, which has been accepting old handset donations at stores for several months already, collecting any iPhone 3GS, 4, or 4S that can be given a new lease of life as a communication lifeline for a senior citizen in Singapore with these apps.

Senior safety

Silverline app for seniors

The ‘Well Being’ part of the Silverline apps for seniors.

With SingTel already on board, and the apps already developed for iOS, I asked Ciaran Lyons from NewtonCircus, the startup running this project, why it’s now taking the crowdfunding route:

Part of the crowdfunding budget will be used to work with some neat external devices – such as battery-powered accelerometers – which provide additional functionality. But so far everything can be installed on your factory-fresh smartphone – though we’d prefer it were second-hand.

Ciaran adds that Silverline has so far clocked up “18 months of research, prototyping and user feedback to make sure that seniors love and benefit from our apps.” In addition to what the suite of apps do already, they’re working on bringing them to Android in future and getting the Silverline apps into the iTunes App Store so that anyone can make use of them. Plus, the startup is testing a personal security app that can detect falls, and has started building games that can detect cognitive decline.

To keep the elderly connected once they’ve received the donated handsets, SingTel is giving 1,000 voice and data plans, good for a whole year, to the phone beneficiaries free of charge. Ciaran says that “the need, even just in Singapore, is far greater than that and it’s growing every year. So we have a lot to do.” But the SingTel site suggests that only 27 old iPhones have been donated so far, so the project is in need of a hardware boost so that some of Singapore’s neediest citizens can have these apps at their disposal.

We’re told that Newton Circus is a startup of 11 people. Though they have received funding from different sources for various initiatives, there’s been no venture capital input as of yet. The team is working with registered charities in the US, UK, Hong Kong, and Australia to create similar phone donation programs there.

Get more info on donating your old iPhones (3GS, 4, 4S only) here, or throw some cash at their new crowd funding page (which runs for 45 more days). Or do both.


Silverline app for seniors

S’pore to allow sale of Chinese medicine containing berberine

S'pore to allow sale of Chinese medicine containing berberine
S’pore to allow sale of Chinese…

SINGAPORE: From January 1, 2013, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) will allow the sale of Chinese proprietary medicines (CPM) containing berberine in Singapore.

This was announced on Saturday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a forum on traditional Chinese medicine by overseas experts.

Berberine is an alkaloid naturally present in some herbs such as Rhizoma coptidis and Cortex phellodendri, and used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for its “heat-clearing” and “dampness-drying” properties.

The prohibition of the use of berberine, as controlled under the Poisons Act, was implemented by the Ministry of Health in 1978, arising from local safety concerns that berberine could cause severe jaundice and brain damage in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) -deficient babies.

The HSA, together with its expert committees, has been monitoring the situation and conducting ongoing scientific reviews on the safety profile of berberine.

This includes literature review of scientific publications on the safety of berberine, and surveillance of adverse reactions reported in other places which practise TCM such as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The feedback from the local TCM community and developments in the local regulatory landscape were also factors considered in the review of berberine.

The latest review conducted by the Berberine Expert Panel indicates that there are no major safety concerns when berberine is used appropriately.

However, it cautioned that it should still be avoided in infants, G6PD-deficient individuals of all ages, pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Professor Ng Han Seong, chairman of the Berberine Expert Panel, said: “There are various factors that led to the lifting of the ban. I think one is… (that the) Ministry of Health started, in 1965, a screening process for all babies… so we know which babies are deficient in G6PD. And so the mothers were given adequate education and all the warnings of the use of herbs.”

Some physicians have hailed the authorities’ move to lift the ban.

Wong Chin Nai, president of the Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Association, said: “In future, we can freely use herbs containing berberine to treat patients. This can hopefully bring about better outcomes and benefit patients.”

Based on the recommendations of the Berberine Expert Panel and taking into consideration that there are sufficient safeguards in place, HSA, in consultation with MOH, will adopt a phased approach in the lifting of the prohibition on berberine in Singapore.

For a start, the use of CPM containing berberine, for example in capsules, oral liquid preparations, powders and granules used by TCM practitioners in their dispensing, would be allowed with effect from January 1, 2013.

In the absence of major safety issues, the HSA will review the possible further lifting of prohibition on Chinese herbs containing berberine by 2015.

HSA said to safeguard public health, CPM containing berberine will be subjected to the current regulatory regime whereby HSA will review the safety and quality of these preparations before they are placed in the local market.

Additional labelling requirements, in the form of appropriate cautionary statements to warn against use in infants, G6PD-deficient individuals of all ages, pregnant and breastfeeding women, will be imposed on these products.

With the lifting of the ban, HSA will continue to monitor the situation closely for any occurrence of adverse reactions.

In addition, educational programmes to TCM practitioners to share on adverse reactions reporting and the precautions that should be taken when using CPM containing berberine will be conducted.

HSA will also engage the TCM industry to provide them with the relevant safety information, so as to reach out to Chinese medical halls and retailers, as well as conduct dialogue sessions with the industry on the relevant technical requirements for these CPM.

insing

Singapore healthiest country in the world


Singapore the healthiest country in the world, says new study.

SINGAPORE: Singapore is the healthiest country in the world, according to a new survey published this week.

According to a Bloomberg report, the island country was tops in the world as the healthiest, followed closely by Italy, Australia and Switzerland.

Singaporeans were given the top honors as a result of their strong healthcare system, which has seen residents have longer life expectancies and lower death rates.

The final ranking was calculated based on a health-risk score which took into consideration factors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity rates, physically inactivity and extent of immunisation coverage.

This score was then deducted from a main health score which was calculated from basic health factors such as life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, causes of death and death rates of different age groups.

Singaporeans have one the highest global life expectancy rates.

The report also comes as the Singapore government is looking to double healthcare expenditures in the next five years to continue to push a healthy society.

Residents told Bikyamasr.com that they believe the government is on the right track for boosting the health of its residents and hope for a “brighter future.”

source: BM

Girl, 8, who visited Singapore dies of H5N1


An Indonesian girl who travelled with her family to Singapore died from the H5N1 avian flu shortly after returning to Indonesia.

The 8-year-old developed a fever a day before her trip to Singapore and visited a doctor here.

She was here with her family for six days from June 19 to June 24 with her mother and some relatives, according to details released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to the media.

She stayed in a hotel here, but the ministry declined to reveal which hotel it was. Her condition worsened after she returned and she was diagnosed with the avian flu on June 29.

The child had reportedly carried freshly killed chickens with her father earlier last month, on June 12.

As a precautionary measure, the MOH has started contact tracing and hospitals have been alerted to the case.

Her aunt who resides and the general practitioner who treated her are both fine, reported The Straits Times.

Hospitals such as the National University Hospital said their emergency medicine departments have been alerted and will look out for patients with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, chills, body ache, headache and vomiting.

There have been no local cases of H5N1 reported to MOH, and it said  chances of transmission between humans are extremely low.

asiaone

S’pore must up fertility rate now, or else

Singapore must increase its total fertility rate between now and 2015, or the country’s labour force will shrink to the point that it becomes very difficult to support the growing ageing population here, population experts warned yesterday.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion on demographic challenges, organised by the Civil Service College and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), they added that a low fertility rate could also make sustaining strong economic growth a problem.

The day-long event was held at Orchard Hotel.

Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, an IPS adjunct senior research fellow, said that it would take 15 to 20 years before the next generation can make an impact on Singapore’s economy.

While Singapore cannot afford to stop attracting migrants, it should place priority on developing concrete ways to tackle the dwindling birth rate, many experts said.

This, Mr Yeoh said, boils down to making Singapore a liveable city with social compactness, and not just a world-class city that attracts talent.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said: “On population issues, we need to go beyond the rational dimensions.

“People do not have babies for rational reasons (alone), but emotional ones (as well). So what is this big emotional deficit in Singapore that leads to fewer babies? These are much, much harder to discover.”

Solutions the experts proposed revolve around ensuring adequate social security for citizens, making housing affordable and having a more egalitarian education system.

Dr Toh Mun Heng, an associate professor with the Department of Strategy and Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, said that policymakers need to be more mindful of issues involving internal competitiveness within Singapore.

Mr Yeoh stressed the need for better social protection and stronger social-safety nets to ensure that the well-being of the average Singapore citizen is taken care of.

“Singapore, in 30 to 50 years’ time, is not going to be competing on cost…the whole centre of gravity of global economic growth is in our neighbourhood,” said Mr Yeoh, referring to rapidly growing economies like India and China.

“Our challenge is to find our niche based on what we have. That comparative – not competitive – advantage is going to be based on the talent we can draw here on the basis of our liveability.” Another topic discussed was Singapore’s need to invest in forging a more definite national identity as the country takes in more migrants.

Prof Mahbubani noted that Singaporeans do not have a common set of answers when asked by foreigners about their identity as citizens. He said: “And then the foreigners will say to you, that if you can’t agree on what your Singapore identity is, what is it you are asking of me?”

An IPS study released yesterday showed that Singapore’s annual average labour-force growth rate of about 3.6 per cent over the last decade will plummet, even with more foreigners flocking to the country.

It highlighted an increasing burden on the young as the country’s total population size declines. This is because they would have to fork out more taxes to support the elderly.

AsiaOne

Energy guzzler Singapore boosts ‘green’ buildings

Rows of solar panels on the roof top of the United World College Southeast Asia in Singapore. Photo courtesy: AFP

by Bhavan Jaipragas

Singapore, April 24, 2012 (AFP) – From the bone-chilling air conditioning that pumps through Singapore’s malls and offices to lights that burn all night, the city state is one of Asia’s most intensive energy users.

Nearly all electricity used by the industrialised island is produced by burning fossil fuels, which in 2010 contributed to the largest carbon footprint per head in the Asia-Pacific region, according to conservation group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

South Korea and third-placed Japan follow close behind.

For environmentalists, the scenario is all too familiar in the Asia region whose urban population is set to soar from 1.9 billion to 3.3 billion by 2050 according to United Nations data.

Such growth puts sustainability on top of the agenda but critics say Asia’s megacities are not doing enough to curb their voracious appetite for energy, with Singapore having been recognised as one of the worst offenders.

The WWF added that buildings contribute some 16 percent of Singapore’s carbon emissions.

While the city-state contends that the WWF’s per capita measurement of carbon emissions “disadvantages countries with small populations” — compared to the likes of rapidly industrialising China — it has nevertheless been spurred into action.

Rows of solar panels on the roof top of the United World College Southeast Asia in Singapore. Photo courtesy: AFP

 

In 2005, the government embarked on a project to promote the development of high-tech, low-energy buildings and the retrofitting of older ones in a push to “green” at least 80 percent of all buildings by 2030.

Since then 1,000 government-certified green buildings have been built in Singapore, accounting for 13 percent of gross floor space in the country.

Along with cash incentives, developers who meet targets set by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) are given more leeway to have bigger floor areas.

United World College Southeast Asia, an international school, is one of the torchbearers of the drive.

“Many new buildings are savagely overdesigned, wasting capital and upkeep costs. If you rationalise your design and spend on green technology, the savings are going to be immense,” said Simon Thomas, its director of operations and facilities.

Features like rooftop solar panels, cascading walls that block off heat and optimal use of natural light make the campus about 30 percent more energy-efficient than conventional buildings of similar size, Thomas told AFP.

The college worked closely with architects to design a building that had energy efficiency as a central objective, he said.

The 2,500 students are also kept aware of daily water and electricity consumption levels, thanks to prominently displayed meters on every floor.

Its 5.5-hectare (13.5 acres) campus in Singapore’s eastern region was awarded the nation’s Green Mark Platinum award in 2011, the highest accolade in the official rating system.

Shunning green for green

Despite the surge in the development of such buildings, BCA chief executive John Keung said some developers are still averse to riding the green wave, due to what they see as relatively high costs of technologies such as solar.

“Although there are some who see great value in going green for their own corporate branding, others are discouraged by its perceived high upfront costs and low return on investments,” Keung told AFP.

Developers who shun green technologies may not be fully aware of the scale of savings they are missing out on, according to Keung.

“The cost premium involved in green buildings is gradually decreasing with greater economies of scale and the industry’s familiarity with green building design”.

Despite the cost of solar panels falling by about four percent every year, solar-derived electricity remains more expensive than that from the power grid.

Signage highlighting a “city green” area at the entrance of the City Square Mall in Singapore, which has an integrated park and solar-panelled roof. Photo courtesy: AFP

This is mainly due to its relatively high capital costs as well as maintenance costs, according to Singapore’s Energy Market Authority.

City Developments Limited, one of Singapore’s top property groups, is nevertheless confident that environmentally-friendly buildings will become the norm as “green consumerism” gains traction.


Simon Thomas, director of facilities and operations at United World College Southeast Asia, explaining the functions of the solar panels intalled on the roof of their building in Singapore. Photo courtesy: AFP

Its City Square Mall has an integrated park and solar-panelled roof. Some tenants sell eco-friendly products and offer discounts to customers who bring their own shopping bags.

With Singaporeans increasingly aware of environmental issues, there will be greater demand for investments in green innovations and technology, said Esther An, the company’s head of corporate social responsibility.

 


The inside of the City Square Mall in Singapore, which has an integrated park and solar-panelled roof. Photo courtesy: AFP

 

In addition to making buildings more energy-efficient, Singapore is also aggressively developing desalination and sewage-recycling technology to address its chronic water shortages.

Read More: SinChew

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