International COVID 19 XBB COVID-19 wave: What you need to know about the subvariant driving...

XBB COVID-19 wave: What you need to know about the subvariant driving the increase of cases in Singapore

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“The proportion of reinfections among total COVID-19 cases in Singapore has been increasing over the past month, with reinfections currently making up about 17 per cent of total new cases,” the Ministry of Health said.

Covid-19 infections have been on the rise again in Singapore, largely due to the Omicron XBB subvariant. The Ministry of Health (MOH) issued an advisory on Saturday (Oct 15) regarding this recent surge in XBB cases regarding the steps it’s been taking to ensure that the country’s healthcare systems remain protected.

MOH said that the peak of XBB infections is expected to hit around mid-November, and assured the public that there are enough ICU, hospital and COVID-19 Treatment Facility (CTF) beds to manage the upcoming wave.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung also said at a media conference on Oct 15 that there is a higher risk of infection during the XBB wave for people who have never caught Covid-19.

“This is likely to be a short and sharp wave driven by XBB, but contributed to no small extent by reinfections,” he added.

The Omicron XBB subvariant, first detected in India in August, is now the predominant subvariant in Singapore and is present in 17 countries. And while it has been observed to be as transmissible as other variants, the MOH said that there has been no evidence that it leads to more severe illness.

From Oct 3 to 9, XBB accounted for 54 per cent of local cases in Singapore, up from 22 per cent the week before.

MOH also said that there is evidence that the new subvariant may be driving an increase in reinfections.

“The proportion of reinfections among total COVID-19 cases in Singapore has been increasing over the past month, with reinfections currently making up about 17 per cent of total new cases,” the ministry said.

Since immunity wanes over time, MOH underlined the importance of ensuring that one’s vaccinations are up-to-date to protect against severe infections. 

The bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine has been available in Singapore since Oct 14 “to persons who have yet to achieve minimum protection, as well as those aged 50 years and above who received their last vaccine dose more than five months ago,” MOH added, encouraging eligible individuals to schedule their shots.

People can refer to www.gowhere.gov.sg/vaccine to locate the nearest Joint Testing and Vaccination Centre (JTVC) that offer this vaccine, where those who are eligible may walk in and get their jabs.

As for masking, MOH encouraged the public to wear masks in crowded places, or when visiting or interacting with vulnerable individuals. 

“In particular, experts have advised that the elderly and immuno-compromised should continue to wear masks in crowded indoor settings to reduce their risk of catching any respiratory infections,” the ministry added.

The Health Minister also said at the press conference that “Maybe we put back our masks, say indoors, or indoors and outdoors, if the situation requires it… We may have to step up VDS (vaccination-differentiated safe management measures) to an appropriate level in order to protect those who are not up-to-date with their vaccinations.” /TISG

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