Singapore is facing a new wave of COVID-19 due to a new Omicron sub-variant, XBB. The Omicron XBB subvariant was first detected in August 2022 in India and has since been detected in more than 17 countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Japan, and the United States. Observations from other countries where XBB has been reported suggest that the variant is just as transmissible as currently circulating variants, but there is no evidence that XBB causes more severe illness.
Based on the current information available, Singapore’s Ministry of Health expects this XBB infection wave to peak by around mid-November 2022. Using past waves of Covid-19 as a comparison, the MOH believe they have adequate ICU, hospital, and COVID-19 Treatment Facility (CTF) beds to cope with the upcoming fifth wave.
To better understand why these variants continue to pop up causing new surges in Covid-19 cases, it is important to understand that Covid-19, like any other virus, is not a living thing. It needs a host to survive- like the cells in your body for instance. Once a virus enters your body, it reproduces and spreads. The more a virus circulates in a population of people, the more it can change, and the more variants it can produce. To speak of XBB specifically, this new strain contains mutations in the spike protein- a part of the virus that plays an important role in the entry of the virus into host cells. One reason for concern is the spike protein has been the main target of many vaccines since antibodies against this protein block the entry of the virus, inhibiting viral replication. Thus, mutations involving this spike protein help the XXB strain evade antibodies against earlier variants, leading to breakthrough infections among those vaccinated and those infected previously.
However, with each new variant of Covid-19, the population will continue to build resilience to the virus. Like throughout the pandemic, it remains important to protect our most vulnerable. Members of the public are encouraged to wear masks when in crowded places, or when visiting or interacting with vulnerable persons. 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.
Vaccination continues to be the primary defense against COVID-19. According to the MOH, “as of 14 October, the bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine has been made available 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. We have seen a good response to this, with over 4,000 people coming forward on 14 October to get their dose.”
To better our chances with the 5th wave of Covid-19, Singaporeans should remain calm, get vaccinated or boosted with the latest vaccines, and continue to exercise personal and social responsibility by maintaining good hygiene, testing, and minimising social interactions when unwell.
If you need to see a doctor or get medication while isolating as we wait out this wave, consider downloading the IGAKU app today.
Feeling stressed from constantly hearing about or catching Covid-19? Follow our other article on Covid related mindfulness here.