Heard of the new XBB yet?
No, it’s not the newest addition to Singapore’s trinity of the YP, XMM and Matrep. It’s not a variation of our beloved XLBs either.
XBB is the new sub-variant driving the current wave of COVID-19 infections, which is expected to peak at an average of 15,000 daily cases by approximately mid-November.
You might want to watch this video to the end to know more about XBB:
Mask rules not ruled out
Based on the previous waves of infection, Singapore is likely to have the adequate healthcare capacity to cope with the incoming surge in COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Saturday.
Public hospitals here have already put in place several measures, such as deferring non-urgent admissions, to provide 200 more beds to care for COVID-19 patients.
In the next two weeks, public hospitals will operate a total of more than 800 beds for COVID-19 patients. Capacity at COVID-19 treatment facilities will also be ramped up in stages to provide more than 800 beds by November.
Why Bird Paradise Suddenly Became Singapore’s Yishun:
At the press conference, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said “This is likely to be a short and sharp wave driven by XBB, but contributed to no small extent by reinfections”.
That’s right, break yourself out of your main character syndrome. Just because you’ve been infected before, doesn’t mean you can’t be reinfected.
While Singapore is striving to never go back to the stringent restrictions imposed during the circuit breaker period during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, safe management measures cannot be ruled out completely.
Bringing back stricter mask mandates is a very real possibility.
“Maybe we put back our masks, say indoors, or indoors and outdoors, if the situation requires it… We may have to step us VDS (vaccination-differentiated safe management measures) to an appropriate level in order to protect those who are not up to date with their vaccinations,” Mr Ong added.
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For now, the MOH will monitor the XBB wave closely and its impact on the healthcare system to see if some of these safe management measures will be necessary.
The minister also urged Singaporeans to exercise personal responsibility amid this new wave of infections.
The rise in incidence of COVID-19 cases also portends the return of the “info-demic”.
Rumours have recently circulated via WhatsApp that the XBB strain is to blame for the rapid and large increase in cases with severe illness and deaths – MOH has since debunked this.
While there is an increase in local cases driven by XBB, the number of severe cases has remained relatively low, likely due to the resilience built up through vaccination and previous waves of infection.
MOH notes that “More importantly, there is also no evidence of XBB causing more severe illness. So far, the large majority of patients continue to report mild symptoms such as sore throat or slight fever, especially if they have been vaccinated.”
MOH had also announced earlier this month that current mRNA vaccines will be replaced by bivalent vaccines, as recommended by the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination.
However, the ministry has since brought forward the administration of the Moderna/Spikevax bivalent vaccine to 14 October, three days ahead of the previously announced date.
The bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine is based on the same original vaccine, with the same dosage for boosting. However, the updated bivalent vaccine provides better protection against newer COVID-19 variants like the XBB sub-variant.
Under the updated arrangement, MOH urged Singaporeans to keep up to date with the latest vaccination recommendations, such as three complete mRNA or Novavax doses or four Sinovac-CoronoVac doses for minimum protection.
Those aged 50 and above should also receive an additional booster dose between five months to a year from their last dose, to keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination.
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