askST: What is the XBB strain and how will it affect me?

There were 11,732 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore is facing yet another iteration of the mutated coronavirus - the BA.2.10 strain, otherwise more commonly known as the XBB strain - that is largely driving the current surge in cases.

There were 11,732 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, more than double the 4,719 the day before.

The Straits Times takes a look at what you need to know about the strain.

Q: What is the XBB strain? Where has it been detected?

A: XBB is another Omicron sub-variant.

It has been detected in countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Japan and the United States since August 2022.

Q: What is the proportion of XBB cases here?

A: Figures from the Ministry of Health show that XBB currently makes up 55 per cent of infections here.

Q: Is it more serious than other Omicron sub-variants?

A: Based on preliminary local data, it is not, the Health Ministry said. However, the authorities are watching the new sub-variant very closely.

The number of severe cases has remained relatively low here, MOH noted. This is very likely due to the resilience built up through vaccination and previous waves of infection. The large majority of patients continue to report mild symptoms such as sore throat or slight fever, especially if they have been vaccinated.

Q: Should I get a booster jab?

A: Getting a booster jab will be beneficial if you are eligible for it.

Additionally, the roll-out of the bivalent version of Moderna's Spikevax vaccine here has also been brought forward by three days to Friday because preparations for its introduction were completed ahead of time.

Those eligible should get themselves protected.

Moderna's Spikevax targets the original Sars-CoV-2 strain of the virus as well as the Omicron BA.1 variant.

Preliminary data show that the Moderna bivalent vaccine is also effective against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, and others such as the Delta and Gamma variants.

This updated bivalent vaccine will replace the current vaccine formulation for all adults aged 18 and above.

Q: Can I still be infected with the XBB strain if I have been vaccinated?

A: Yes. However, vaccination confers good protection, especially against serious illness.

Q: Will this be the last variant that will emerge?

A: No. As more people get infected with the coronavirus, this will lead to more replication of the virus, creating the opportunity for more mutations that could eventually lead to new variants.

Singapore has got better at coping with the new Covid-19 waves, but remains on the lookout for potentially threatening new variants.

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