MOH Responds to WhatsApp Allegations That XBB Has a Higher Mortality Rate


Your phone chimes. Your heart jumps because you think it’s your crush texting you back. But no, it’s just one of your relatives forwarding a poorly-worded, COVID-19-related conspiracy message.

Three years ago, at the height of the pandemic, the government had to create a webpage just to debunk fake news about the virus.

But just when we thought propagating falsehoods was so 2020, the MOH recently issued a statement to warn the public against the latest claim: that the Omicron XBB variant is five times more deadly than the Delta variant. 

Well, that information is FALSE.

The Omicron XBB subvariant is actually less severe than the Delta variant, and current COVID-19 tests can also detect XBB strains, MOH clarified in a Facebook post.

Singapore is Amid a COVID-19 Wave

Now that Singapore is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, the last thing we need is fake news about the virus to make us more paranoid. 

According to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, daily infections rose to around 4,000 cases per day last week, up from about 1,400 a month ago. Despite this, ICU admissions have remained stable and low, with fewer than ten COVID-19 patients in the ICU over the past month.

During this recent wave, while multiple variants are circulating, such as XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, BN.1, and CH.1.1, no one strain is more dominant than the others. Furthermore, Mr Ong also stated that there is no evidence of one strain causing more severe illness than the others.

Mr Ong also highlights the XBB.1.16 variant in particular, affectionately known as “Arcturus”, which sounds like an AI-generated name for a Harry Potter spell.

What is the XBB Strain?

Recent studies seem to indicate that the XBB strain, also known as BA.2.10, is the most immune-evasive strain discovered so far. So even if you’ve been vaccinated, this strain is more likely than other strains to infect you anyway.

Basically, two Omicron strains mutated and combined to form their lovechild, XBB. And no, it doesn’t stand for xiao bao bei, although contextually, that would make so much sense.

Because it’s a combination of two strains, XBB spreads and evades antibody protections with greater ease. On the bright side, patients infected with this strain tend to experience mild symptoms.

Again with the Fake News about XBB?

This isn’t the first time falsehoods about the XBB subvariant have been propagated over WhatsApp. In October last year, MOH had to warn against another mass-forwarded message which claimed that there was a significant and sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in Singapore, along with severe illness and deaths caused by the circulating XBB strain.

MOH even issued a Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) warning against these WhatsApp messages, warning the public that all it takes is a screenshot proving that you had forwarded this message for you to be issued the correction.

Essentially, that means that if you had forwarded these messages around, you would qualify for a POFMA correction warning, even if you didn’t create the message yourself.


So if you need to get informed about COVID-19, please look at credible, legitimate sources of information instead. 

One pandemic is already enough, so let’s keep our messaging platforms for leaving our bosses on read and not start a fake news pandemic too, shall we?