Sharp fall in some infectious diseases since start of circuit breaker period

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There has been a dramatic drop in the number of people seeing doctors in the past two months for infectious diseases usually transmitted from person to person.

Some doctors said good hygiene and social distancing measures are major factors contributing to the slide.

The biggest fall is in acute upper respiratory infections, which include both influenza and the common cold.

While around 2,500 to 3,000 people a day usually see polyclinic doctors for these ailments, the number had dropped to fewer than 700 by the start of this month, according to Ministry of Health (MOH) figures.

Data collected from the 20 polyclinics here is used for sentinel surveillance to identify trends.

The data also showed similar drops in patient numbers for diseases like diarrhoea, conjunctivitis and hand, foot and mouth disease.

These are diseases spread through human contact coupled with poor personal hygiene.

The trend was also observed by medical group Parkway Shenton.

Most of the group's clinics have seen up to a 50 per cent drop in patients with respiratory tract infections since the start of the year.

"This is largely due to the Government's circuit breaker measures, where people are staying at home and wearing masks when going out," said Dr Edwin Chng, medical director of the group.

Given that most people are working from home, Dr Chng also said that the drop in patients is higher - as much as 80 per cent - in its clinics within the business district.

Dr Wong Sin Yew, an infectious disease expert at Gleneagles Hospital, agreed that social distancing and better personal hygiene are major factors contributing to fewer people getting infected.

MP Joan Pereira, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said: "Things have changed since the arrival of Covid-19 on our shores, including our daily hygiene habits and more recently, safe distancing measures."


The MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC added that good hygiene habits are good practices "and should definitely continue even after Covid-19 is no longer a threat".

Ms Pereira added: "We should also encourage employers to remind their workers to stay home or work from home if they are feeling unwell, given that more employers are now able to find ways to adapt their work to be done remotely due to this pandemic."

While some infectious diseases have fallen, the number of dengue infections - a mosquito-borne disease - has bucked the trend.

There are more than 7,000 dengue infections to date this year, which is more than double that for the same period last year.